I’ve heard several reports recently of scammers attempting to steal money from area residents. The ‘grandparent scam’ is an especially nasty one – typically it involves a senior getting a call late at night from a panicked-sounding young person claiming to be their grandchild. The caller claims to have been arrested or otherwise detained – due to a traffic accident perhaps, or at a border crossing. They need money immediately to be released.
They request that the money be sent in various ways: often the demand is for gift cards, which the ‘grandparent’ will buy and then provide the numbers of. They may also demand cash, which a courier will pick up.
No Canadian police agency will ever demand payment in this way, in any circumstance. If you get a call like this it’s a scam, period.
You may think you could never fall for something like this, but the scammers’ methods can be quite sophisticated. They could ‘spoof’ the phone number so that it appears to be coming from the person they claim to be; they can also collect information about you and your family through social media so they can toss in details that sound persuasive. Be careful what you share online.
(Also, stay away from quizzes or polls on Facebook and other social media, especially those that ask things like “what was your first car?” or “who was your first-grade teacher?” These kinds of questions are often used as security checks on banking and other e-commerce sites and can make it easier for a scammer to break into your account.)
Then there are ‘extortion scams’ of various kinds. They can be emails, phone calls or surface mail claiming to be from the police accusing you of an offence and demanding immediate payment to avoid arrest or other penalties. Again, no Canadian police agency does business this way.
Canada Revenue Agency scams
These cast a wide net, not surprising since most of us deal with CRA sooner or later. They can include fake notifications of tax refinds, threatening phone calls demanding immediate payment of money owing, and various others. More info here: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/corporate/security/protect-yourself-against-fraud/scam-alerts.html
These often arrive via text message and offer you a rebate or credit, typically relating to something in the news. When you click the link you’re taken to a scammer’s site where they collect info from you that can allow them to hack into your bank account, for instance. Recent examples include supposed rebates for CERB benefits, fees paid for Ontario license stickers, and as of last week, credits from Rogers due to the recent massive outage.
Once again, in almost no case will a legitimate agency offer rebates in this way.
There are many, many other kinds of scams out there. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre offers pointers on how to avoid being victimized; some key points are:
- Don’t be afraid to say no.
- Do your research.
- Don’t give out personal information.
- If it seems too good to be true, it is.