"Fraudsters are counting on you to get caught-up in the celebrations, excitement and festivities and not question otherwise suspicious behaviours," says Mary O'Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay.
BBB recommends keeping these things in mind during this Easter season:
Bogus websites: With 22 cases and nearly $5,000 lost collectively to online purchase scams reported in Calgary from November 2015 to March 2017, looking for last-minute deals on that perfect Easter dress or gift can be more difficult than you think. Be sure you're only dealing with reputable, trustworthy online retailers. Scammers spoof well-known sites with realistic looking logos, slightly misspelled URL's and too-good-to-be-true deals.
How to spot a phony, or risky website:
- Look for "https". On the payment page, look for "https" at the beginning of the address (the "s" stands for "secure"). If it just says "http," you could risk having your credit card and personal information hacked or breached.
- Pay attention to the URL. The website address could be misspelled by just one letter, and instead be a realistic-looking but fake website phishing for your information.
- Look for mistakes. Poor grammar or bad spelling on the website could mean you're not on the official webpage you're looking for.
- Compare logos. Scammers can be skilled in copying or designing phony logos that closely resemble those of trusted online retailers. Look for the official website and compare logos and images.
Beware of email phishing: Receiving an e-card is always nice, but if you don't recognize the sender it's best to delete it. With eight reported cases of phishing in Calgary so far this year, scammers are using holiday e-cards to phish for your information. These messages appear to be e-cards but are actually links for malicious software that can steal your personal information and ruin your computer.
How to spot an email phishing scam:
- Do you know the sender? If you get an unsolicited message from a business, or what seems like a personal greeting or e-card from someone you don't know, be cautious if prompted to click on suspicious looking links or attachments. These could be loaded with harmful viruses and malware.
- Are you being asked to submit personal information? Remember, legitimate businesses, like the Canada Revenue Agency, iTunes, Netflix etc...will never ask for personal or financial information via email. If you're unsure, contact the company directly to confirm the message came from them.
- Does the message seem suspicious or urgent? If you're being pressured to "act now," or provide personal information to unlock or verify your account, or take part in an exciting deal or limited time offer, take the time to verify the business and the offer before clicking on links or handing over credit card information.
Pet scams: Many families use this time of year as the season to surprise their children with new bunnies, chicks, puppies or other pets. With one reported pet scam in Calgary last month, one Alberta resident reported a loss of $550 in an online puppy scam. Be careful of scammers placing fake animal ads online. You may get a puppy mill pooch or other pet with problems, or you may get nothing at all because it was a scam.
How to protect yourself against pet scams:
- Be cautious when dealing with online breeders or sellers: While there are legitimate pet sellers and breeders looking for pet owners online, be sure to find ones you can meet with in person. Ask about the full cost, veterinary needs and meet the animal itself to ensure it is healthy. If they are unwilling to meet you in person, it could be a red flag.
- Be wary of wire money transfer requests: Paying upfront for a pet online can be risky, especially if you're not dealing with a local owner or breeder. Wire money transfers are a popular form of payment used by scammers because they are hard to trace. Once a pet scammer has your money, they disappear leaving you empty handed.
- Consider local animal shelters and humane societies: That way you can visit the animal and its caregivers beforehand, and feel confident about giving a rescue or older animal a loving home. If something goes wrong, you may have some recourse dealing with an actual business as opposed to an individual breeder. Plus, they may already be house-trained!
Charity scams: Scammers are skilled at making charities look legitimate and even worse, know how to tug on your heartstrings. There were four reported charity scams in Alberta from December 2015 to August 2016, including two Calgary cases. Be wary if you receive an unsolicited letter, phone call or salesman at your door asking for donations this Easter season. Check with BBB to verify a charity before donating.
How to be sure a charity is legitimate:
- Check registration: In Canada, all charities must be registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. If a charity cannot provide proof of registration, it could be a scam.
- Resist pressure to give on the spot, whether from a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor. Legitimate charities will welcome your donation, no matter what amount, and won't push you to make a quick decision.
- Be wary of heart-wrenching appeals. What matters is what the charity is doing to help.
- Press for specifics. If the charity says it's helping the homeless, for example, ask how and where it's working.
- Check websites for basics. A charity's mission, program and finances should be available on its site. If not, check for a report at www.give.org.
Free airline tickets, timeshares and discounted hotel rooms are popular scams during any holiday season. There were six reported vacation/timeshare scams in Calgary from September 2015 to February 2017. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Contact the company directly to verify its legitimacy and check BBB Business Reviews
for other information.
How to ensure you're travel plans are secure:
- Beware of pop-up ads or third-party booking sites. While there are some legitimate travel booking websites, always call the hotel, airline and other accommodations directly to verify deals and discounts before booking.
- Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card allows for some recourse should something go wrong while you're traveling. Check with your credit card issuer about travel policies before you leave on your trip. Be sure to ask about spending limits, security and protection features, travel insurance as well as what to do if your card is lost or stolen while traveling.
*All reported numbers are courtesy of BBB Scam Tracker