Commanding Officer Sergeant Barbara Holley of the Vanderhoof RCMP detachment reported this week that the CRA scam had once again surfaced in Vanderhoof. It’s one of a plethora of scams that plague the world but, according to Holley, thanks to the work of police and the media, the majority of people in Canada are aware that the Canadian Revenue Service does not call people and threaten them with arrest unless they are immediately sent money (often in the form of bit coin or even iTunes cards).
Similarly, most people are aware that there really isn’t a prince in Nigeria wanting to send them millions of dollars in return for a small handling fee.
Yet the battle is far from over, according to Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving mainland B.C. The BBB recently released its list of top ten scams and their surveys indicated a shift in the scamming landscape.
It seems the common telephone and internet scams that have received the bulk of the attention in the media may not be the greatest threat to the population. According to the BBB’s Scam Tracker the greatest threat to unwitting victims are scams related to on-line purchases.
“The problem is ubiquitous, and its a form of fraud that many people are not on guard against in the same way as they might be aware of the CRA scam or the Nigerian prince scam,” said Kelly.
“With the increasing popularity of on-line shopping, the door has been opened to scams and frauds of all kinds, and we’re at the point where we are trying to educate people of the potential dangers of on-line purchasing.”
It’s not that the concept of on-line shopping is a bad one, added Kelly, noting that reputable retailers and companies like Amazon have a well deserved reputation for quality and integrity and have policies in place to protect consumers.
The problem arises when fraud artists create counterfeit websites where deeply discounted goods are offered.
One example noted by Kelly involved Canada Goose jackets.
“These are jackets generally priced at about $800 or more but, in 2017, websites started showing up offering the jackets at a fraction of that price. Some consumers didn’t even know they’d been bounced to a fraudulent site because the page still looked like the original site. But the Canada Goose site had been hacked and consumers were being sent to a fraudulent site where they would be cheated of their money.”
Sometimes the scammers will simply take payment for items and never ship the material, but others do ship counterfeit, low quality knock-offs of the high end items.
“The old rule of, ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t’ still applies,” said Kelly.
But the BBB has some tips for consumers to help them avoid being the next victim of on-line fraudsters.
First, make certain that you are dealing with a reputable website.
In the case of the Canada Goose scam, consumers had been moved from Canadagoose.com to a site named Canadangoose.com. The insertion of the “n” between “Canada” and “goose” was hard to spot unless consumers were on the lookout for the scam.
Kelly explained that consumers should watch the IP addresses of sites, but also be aware of simple cues like spelling errors or unprofessional language within the text on the sites.
“Another option for consumers is to use a credit card with a reimbursement policy that covers consumers who have been defrauded in an on-line purchase. For them, it’s a cost of doing business,” said Kelly.
“And finally, don’t feel pressured. If you see an offer where you have to respond immediately in order to qualify for the product, then it’s probably wise to move on. Reputable sellers do not generally pressure their customers in that way, and if they do, they should expect to lose the sale.”