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Tips on how to spot a scam before it's too late

Too good to be true? Then it probably is
Worried you've been scammed? Call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 1-888-495-8501. (via Unsplash/Rawipixel)

With technology continually advancing at a rapid pace, it’s no surprise scammers looking to capitalize on those who may be vulnerable, are coming up with stronger tactics to get what they want.

Scams come in many different shapes, forms and sizes (depending on how much money is requested). It can sometimes be hard to spot a scam.

Here are some of the most common scams to look out for:

Tax scams

The most frequent scam to appear in the last couple of years involves fraudsters calling, texting or emailing people and telling them they're with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

There are two scams currently making the rounds involving the CRA. The first involves scammers who call consumers, and as stated above, impersonate a CRA representative. They claim the CRA has done an audit and that discrepancies have been discovered in previously filed taxes, and payment is required immediately.

Threats are commonly the next action attempted by the scammers. According to the CRA, threats include additional fees, jail time and deportation. The payment is requested in the form of money service business, pre-paid cards or gift cards such as iTunes and sometimes, bitcoin payments.

The second scam involving the CRA sees consumers receive emails or text messages stating a refund from the CRA is available to them. The emails or text messages have a link that will take the consumer to a website that appears almost identical to the CRA's site.

Once the consumer has opened the link, they are asked to fill in personal information including a social insurance number, date of birth and banking information, before the refund is issued to them in the form of an e-transfer. The CRA never issues notifications of a refund through email, text message or other forms of communication but will send a physical letter or ask the consumer to log in to their My CRA account (notice is delivered through email but contains no personal information).

The CRA reminds consumers to protect themselves by always confirming who is contacting them and who they may be dealing with. Never provide personal information to someone claiming to be from the CRA over the phone, by email or text messaging.

The CRA also never asks for payment through a money business, iTunes cards or bitcoin.

Should you believe you have given into a scam, contact the two credit reporters in Canada – Equifax and Trans Union -- to have fraud alerts placed on your account. If you have shared banking information, contact your bank immediately to enforce alerts on your account. Also, call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 1-888-495-8501.

Rental scams

This scam is particularly important for those who are just starting out in the rental market.

It may sound like a straightforward and easy process. Contact a landlord, sign agreements, pay rent, damage and pet deposits and you’re good to go. As nice as that would be, scams are also quite common and could result in losing money.

RCMP have noted a scam where a landlord meets with a prospective renter. After the first meeting, they meet again, and the renter pays rent and the initial damage deposit. Agreements are signed and the landlord provides a move-in date and a key for the rental.

But shortly after the tenant moves in, another person shows up at the rental property with their belongings. They too also “rented” the unit from the same landlord.

Authorities say in a lot of these scenarios, the owner ends up having others manage the rental of the property, or a sub-lease but completes a minimal amount of paperwork.

Police say tenants and landlords should always ensure that a proper rental agreement is completed with the name and address of the landlord.

If you are a prospective renter and are suspicious or cautious, police suggest asking the landlord to show identification with a picture that shows the name of the person who is on the tenancy agreement. If they refuse to provide any form of documentation, authorities say it should raise red flags.

If something seems too good to be true, it usually is and if you are a victim of a crime or don’t follow through with an agreement because of suspicions, report the information to the proper authorities.


Jess Fedigan

About the Author: Jess Fedigan

Jess Fedigan graduated from BCIT’s broadcast and online journalism program in 2016. Her career (so far) has taken her to Fort St. John, Victoria and now Prince George.
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