Today's scams are often complex and creative. They target a wide range of people – not just the very wealthy. Earl Jones, for example, defrauded Canadians of at least $50 million between 1982 and 2009. For over 20 years he had investors believing they were engaged in a low risk, high reward investment. He had built such trust with his clients over the years that many did not even think of questioning his credentials. Now, some people have lost their entire life savings.
How can you protect yourself from the Earl Jones of the world? How do you steer clear of all the other types of scam artists out there? It is very difficult in some cases, but you can start by learning about these recent scams:
- The Visa/Mastercard phone scam
- The Canada lottery scam
- The Canada Post scam
- Double dip or repeat scams
- Investment seminar scams
Spotting an investment fraud: Greg’s story
It’s not always easy to spot a scam – even if you’re a former police officer. Find out why. Read Greg's story
Keeping your credit card safe: Clara’s story
Sometimes the hardest scams to spot are the ones where you say very little. Read Clara’s story.
Remember, today’s scams are not always easy to spot. Don’t share your personal or financial information with someone you don’t know. Always check the person or company’s identity and other credentials before you invest. To learn more, read this Guide on frauds and scams from the RCMP.
The Visa/Mastercard phone scam
There are lots of credit card scams. But this latest scam is especially cunning. The caller already has your credit card number. They provide almost all the information to you, except for the one missing piece they need. Here’s how it works:
- You receive a call from someone who says they are from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA or Mastercard. The person gives you a badge number to identify themselves. Then they tell you your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern.
- The caller asks you to check that they have your correct information. They tell you the number of your card and the bank that issues it to you. They also tell you your address. They have all your information and it’s all correct.
- Then the caller asks if you purchased an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a company based in Arizona. When you say 'No', the caller tells you they have received many complaints from other people about the same thing. They will reverse the charge to your account.
- The caller then promises to investigate the fraud. They give you a 1-800 number to call if you have any questions. They also give you a reference number to use if you call.
- One last thing: the caller then asks to verify that you still have the card in your possession. He or she will ask you to 'turn your card over and look for some numbers'. The caller will ask you to read the last 3 numbers on the back to him. Online merchants often require this number when you use your credit card to make a purchase.
- After the call ends, the scammer will charge $497.99 to your card. You won’t know anything is wrong until you look at your next statement.
To avoid a credit card scam, remember:
- Keep your credit cards safe. Carry only the one or two credit and debit cards you'll be using when you shop.
- Shred or burn anything with your credit card number on it. Don’t toss receipts or statements into the trash.
- Don't sign blank credit card receipts. Check the amount on your credit card receipt before signing it. If you get a credit card receipt that has blank spaces in it, write $0 in those spaces or draw through them before putting your signature on the card.
- Avoid giving out your credit card information. Don't return calls to a phone number left on your answering machine. Don't give your credit card number to anyone who calls you requesting the number. It’s safer if you call an authorized number and know who you are dealing with.
- Be safe with your credit card online. Only enter your credit card number on secure websites that you know are legitimate. Don't click on email links from anyone pretending to be your bank, credit card company, or other business who uses your personal information.
- Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately. The sooner you report a missing credit card the less likely it is that you'll have to pay for any false charges made on your credit card.
- Review your billing statements each month. If you notice a charge you didn't make, no matter how small, report it to your credit card company immediately.
The Canadian lottery scam:
Like many lottery scams, this one aims to steal your identity and your money. Here’s how it works:
- You receive an email promising a significant cash prize from a lottery you never entered.
- To claim your prize, you must go to a website. There you will be asked to provide personal information. This could include your banking information, credit card details, driver’s license number or even your passport.
- Once you provide this information, the scammers may ask you to send money. For example, they may tell you that you have to pay a fee or taxes to collect your winnings. The problem is, there are no winnings for you to collect – ever.
To avoid a scam lottery, remember:
- In almost all cases, you must purchase a ticket to enter a legitimate lottery. You cannot win if you don’t enter.
- You never have to pay to collect your winnings from a legitimate lottery. There are no fees.
- You may pay taxes after you receive the winnings. Only the government can collect taxes. No one else.
- If you hold a winning lottery ticket, you notify the lottery. They do not notify you – not by email, not by phone, and not by mail.
- Legitimate lotteries are conducted by a government or government-authorized charitable organization. In Ontario, the Registrar of Alcohol and Gaming Commission oversees these lotteries. This includes those held by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. It also includes those run by well-known charities such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Red Cross and so on.
The Canada Post scam:
In this recent scam, you are asked to help Canada Post test an online service to transfer money. Here’s how it works:
- You receive a phony letter that claims to come from Canada Post. It will even have the Canada Post logo on it.
- The letter asks you to help test the MoneyGram International service at Canada Post or Shoppers Drug Mart outlets. It encloses a money order made out to you from MoneyGram. You are asked to deposit the money to your bank account.
- You will then transfer the funds back. You are told to keep $200 for yourself as a thank-you for your help. You have to call to find out where to send the transfer.
- You then go to a Canada Post location or Shopper's Drug Mart with a postal agency and complete the transfer. The problem? The money order you cashed was phony. So you will be out of pocket for the money your transferred to the scammers.
To avoid a phony money order from Canada Post, remember:
- A legitimate Canada Post money order is as good as cash. But you should check the number on the slip to ensure that it is valid. Call Canada Post to verify at 1-800-563-0444.
- When you hold the money order up to the light, you should see a watermark: one or two beaver-shaped images engrained into the paper.
- Make sure that the value of the money order does not exceed $999.99.
Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Investor Education Fund, a non-profit organization promoting financial literacy to Canadians. To find out more go to GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca.