While your local BBB gets to work on the Top 10 Scams that hammered Canadians over the past year, one of the best ways to prevents these fraudsters from stealing your money or information is to resolve to not let it happen in the first place. Canadians lose countless millions of dollars every year to scams. So many of these scams are untraceable and it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. Prevention through education is really one of the best lines of defense.
Keep your identity and personal information in tip-top shape this year with these BBB tips:
• Firstly…if it seems too good to be true, it is.
• Do your research. When it comes to buying anything or hiring a service provider, always check with BBB or at the very least read online reviews before parting with your money or signing contracts.
• Get everything in writing. Don't just take a company's word for it. Get every verbal agreement in writing on company letterhead to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between what you expect and what the business delivers.
• Read the fine print. Especially with any offer that claims a ‘Free Trial.’ Understand all terms and conditions and return policies. If that information is not available, particularly online, be very wary about sending credit card information.
• Check your credit card statements. This should be done every time you receive a statement. Many people gloss over it and miss transactions they did not approve. The faster you find them, the better your odds of getting your money back and stopping future thefts.
• Change your passwords to online accounts. IT experts say changing your passwords 3 times a year is a good line of defense to preventing ID theft. Passwords should be 12 characters in length, contain letters, numbers, and symbols. Never use family or pet names. Never use words found in the dictionary. Password manager apps are very useful as well.
• Update anti-virus software. It’s always good practice to look for any updates to the anti-virus software you are using on your home computer. Hackers will find a way through current programs that force these companies to constantly make changes.
• Avoid pop-up ads and click bait promotions. These are often found in social media and can be a way for scammers to get you to click on questionable links or unknowingly sign up for subscriptions with your credit card. Be the instigator and shop on reputable websites and use third party payment such as PayPal.
• Limit what you share on social media. Scammers use social media sites to gather information on potential victims. Avoid sharing too much personal information and check your privacy settings. Also, never announce on a social media site that you are going out of town or won't be home for a specific period of time.
• Buy legit tickets. BBB does not want you to miss the big show. Buy tickets from reputable ticket brokers. Don’t send money to people you don’t know. If buying privately, meet in person and bring a friend. Make sure the tickets they are selling correspond to the show and the venue seating.
• Be skeptical of job offers that promise easy money. Beware of any job offer, work-at-home scheme or business opportunity that requests personal information upfront and promises big money for little work and no experience. More often than not, these are simply cheque cashing schemes that leave you out of pocket to the tune of thousands of dollars. If you didn’t apply for a job or didn’t get an interview, you didn’t get hired.
• Don’t believe tax scammers. While we have seen the CRA scam fall off the radar a little, it’s a good reminder that the Canada Revenue Agency does not make threatening phone calls for unpaid taxes.
• Private sale overpayment. If you’re selling a personal item online and someone offers more than what you are asking, we promise you this is a scam. Don’t fall for it.