By Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC
It’s sad. I have been working for Better Business Bureau for almost two years following nearly a decade in local journalism. And while my experience and, albeit age and dash of, dare I say, wisdom, I’m still shocked by how many people are targeted or taken in by scammers. It’s sad that there are so many people out there who would take advantage of those in a vulnerable situation. It’s sad that there are those who would think nothing of tearing away a lonely senior’s entire life savings leaving them scared and suffering in their final years. It’s sad that they would threaten a new immigrant to Canada with the scary thought of deportation.
I do a lot of public speaking engagements with BBB and we recently took part at the PNE in Vancouver. What shocks me is that everyone, not just a few, told me they had received calls about the dreaded and ceaseless Canada Revenue Agency Tax Scam. Everyone. A recent news story alluded to the fact these scammers can make upwards of 50 thousand a month with that one scam. It’s easy to see why they would be so relentless.
It saddens me that when someone asks what can they do to get their money back I simply shrug my shoulders. There isn’t much I or the police can do. So many of today’s digital or phone related scams don’t even originate in Canada. If they did they might be a little easier to hunt down. However, if they are based in Pakistan or Nigeria...well, you get the idea.
Our Scam Tracker web page, a new tool launched by BBB in 2015, has now tracked nearly 37 thousand scams across North America. Canadians continue to lose money left right and centre. Over a billion was lost in 2015 alone. That’s a rough estimate as it’s believed only 5 percent of those scammed actually report it. It’s sad that so many feel helpless or ashamed to help get the word out. There is no shame in getting scammed, it happens to the best and brightest of us as scams become more involved and more convincing all the time.
So what does it all mean? It means our guard has to be up. All. The. Time. It means we need to do more to educate and enlighten the public about how to spot a scam. It means we need to be more mindful of those that scammers like to target the most; seniors and immigrants.
It’s not just about scams either. We at BBB see a lot of questionable business practices where well meaning citizens are taken advantage of by businesses that prey on the relative ignorance of those hiring them. It saddens me that some businesses would rather make a fast buck than provide good service. That is of course one of the main reasons BBB exists; to help in such situations.
That said, the overwhelming majority of businesses in BC are among the best around. Honest, trustworthy, and transparent. There are a few bad apples, and fortunately, they don’t make the whole bunch look bad. BBB could not be more proud of the excellent marketplace BC businesses create.
We seem to be living in the age of immediacy. Everything is just a click away. That should give you time to pause before giving your money away or hiring a new service provider. And the online world makes research so much easier. We really have no one to blame but ourselves if things go sideways. BBB long ago had a catch phrase that basically said it all. I think it’s time to really hit this home.
Before you invest...investigate.
For me, I have to get started on next year’s Top 10 Scams list. Sadly, it should be pretty easy to come up with.