- Internet & the Web
The Little Black Book of Scams
Guide to Protection Against Scams & Fraud
The Canadian edition of The Little Black Book of Scams is a guide to help educate and protect yourself against fraud. Though this is a Canadian edition, anyone can benefit from reading this guide and spreading scam and fraud awareness.
You will learn how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, what to do if you have become a victim of scams, and how to report them to the authorities. No one is exempt from fraud, it affects individual people, businesses, government organizations, and it has an impact on the economy. Fraud happens offline and online, and comes in many shapes and forms like deceptive advertising, telephone scams, email scams, mail fraud, phishing and SMiShing, service scams, false charities, pyramid schemes, identity theft, lottery scams, and the list goes on.
Since the advent of the internet, fraud and scams have increased and continue to wreak havoc in people's lives. Take the time to educate yourself on ways scammers use to target unsuspecting individuals and share this with your family and friends. If we act together, we can protect ourselves and others from becoming victims of fraud.
Poll: Fraud and Scams
Have you ever been scammed?
Types of Scams
The Little Black Book of Scams: Internet Scams
Scams & Fraud: Recognize them, Report them, and Stop them
As mentioned earlier, scams come in many forms, both offline and online, including via mobile phones. The Canadian edition of The Little Black Book of Scams lists down some of the most commons scams used by scammers to lure and target Canadians.
In the following sections, you will find information on various types of scams as well as tips and information on how to avoid becoming a victim. Also, if you have become of victim of a scam, you will find resources on what you need to do and how to report scams. I've encountered some of these scams myself.
Lotteries and Sweepstakes Scams
Many people play lotteries and it can be exciting to win a lottery. Scammers use their deceptive skills to lure people into thinking that they have won the lottery, sweepstakes or contest. This type of scam can be in the form of a telephone call, an spam email, a pop-up dialog box when visiting certain websites, or a text message.
You may be asked to divulge your personal details including your banking information. Also, you may be asked to pay a fee or tax to claim your prize. Never divulge your personal details nor send money to people you don't know and trust. Remember that legitimate and licensed lotteries will not ask you to pay a fee to claim your prize. Above is an example of a Lottery Scam Email that I received, in May 2012, which was in my junk box.
Pyramid Schemes have been around for at least a century. They are illegal in many countries, including Canada and the United States, and unsuspecting investors are lured into paying a membership fee for a higher return. In a pyramid scheme, there is no legitimate product or service, rather the focus is on mainly recruiting other members into the scheme.
Some pyramid schemes are cleverly disguised as MLM (multi-level marketing) opportunities. There are many legitimate MLM opportunities through which one can make earn legal income. However, never be pressured into committing to any business or investment opportunity without doing your research.
Money Transfer Request Scams
Money Transfer Request scams come in many forms as well. The Nigerian scam is one of the most common one and I have personally come across several of these via spam email. Essentially, you get an email requesting your help to transfer large sums of money.
The scammers offer to pay you a share of the large sum being transferred. They will first request some of your personal details including your bank account information to transfer the funds. Later they will request you to pay various kinds of fees before the money is transferred. You will never see a dime from them nor will you be able to recover the fees you paid.
Another variation of money transfer scams is an email saying that the person has inherited a huge sum of money and requires your help to transfer the money using a similar approach as mentioned above. Never respond to such emails. Above, you can see an example of such a Money Transfer Scam Email that I have received.
The internet has drastically increased the number of scams we see today. Internet scams take the shape of spam email, phishing, malicious software, online shopping and auctions, to name a few. As discussed above, some of these spam email messages include fake lottery wins and requests to help transfer money.
Another form of internet scam is phishing emails which include links to fake websites that look authentic and pose as your bank or other legitimate business. By clicking the phishing link in the spam email and entering your username and password, you are providing the scammers sensitive information that can be used to defraud you and in identity theft. Still others forms of internet scams include malicious software which is downloaded onto your computer without your knowledge.
This software can include spyware to track your keystrokes and viruses to infect and destroy your sensitive data. Also, scammers target consumers when shopping online and on online auctions. Refer to the tips in the section below on how to protect yourself online.
Mobile Phone Scams
With the increasing number of people using mobile phones, scams have now gone mobile. These scams come in the form of ringtone scams, missed call scams, text message scams, and SMS contest scams.
In terms of ringtone scams, you are offered free or low-priced ringtones. In doing so, you may be accepting terms for premium ringtones after a certain period for which you will be charged later. In terms of missed calls scams, the scammer will call your mobile phone and immediately hang up. You may be tempted to call back and could be charged for the call at premium rates.
Similarly, in the case of text message scams, you will receive an SMS message from the scammer posing as a friend. When you respond to the SMS message, you could be charged exorbitant SMS charges. The SMS contest scam works in a similar fashion, except that you are answering trivia questions in the form of SMS messages.
Also, nowadays with advancements in mobile phone technology, you can use them to surf the internet, shop online, conduct banking online, and much more. This increased online activity via smartphones means you need to understand Mobile Phone Security and protect yourself and data which is stored on your smartphone.
Health and Medical Scams
Medical and Health scams take the form of false medical claims for curing certain diseases or conditions as well as unrealistic weight-loss programs in a short period of time with little effort.
These may include alternative treatments, diet pills, revolutionary exercise equipment, and such. They are often hyped up to look legitimate with fake testimonials.
Another form of medical scams are illegal online pharmacies offering cheap prescription medication even without having a physician's prescription. These scams can appear via spam email or through banner advertisements when visiting websites or search engines. You should always check with your medical professional before venturing into anything that could affect your health and well-being.
Grandparents are generally the targets of Emergency scams, in fact, these scams are sometimes called Grandparent scams. In this case, the scammer calls the grandparent, over the phone, posing as the grandchild.
The scammer goes on to say that they are in an emergency situation like being in another country not being able to return, or being in a car accident and require money urgently.
Basically, the scammer creates an emergency scenario to play with the emotions of the senior so they can get them to act quickly. In cases like these, ask questions to verify that it is indeed your loved one. Or call other members of your family to check the legitimacy of the claims and make sure that you don't send any money to people you don't know and trust. It's sad to see how these scammers even target the most vulnerable.
Dating and Romance Scams
Dating and Romance scams often happen via fake dating websites, but could also happen on legitimate dating websites. The scamming website generally charge a fee for corresponding with other members.
The plan of the scammer is to keep you engaged on the website by sending love messages so you can keep corresponding. In other cases, once the scammer has build a good rapport, they will fabricate a sad story about one of their family members being sick and requiring money for the treatment.
The scammer may also say that he or she would like to come visit you and requires money for the visa and passport. There are many people who have found love online, but there are many more who have been scammed, so be cautious before you commit to divulging your personal information and sending your hard earned money.
In Charity scams, unsuspecting people are approached by scammers, posing as legitimate charities, asking for donations. Scammers may approach you by email, phone, over the internet, and even at your door step.
Scammers may use recent tragic events or natural disasters to prey on unsuspecting individuals taking advantage of their generous hearts. The scammers may even use advertising material of legitimate charities and pressure people into making a donation. A good option to donate to charities or a particular charitable campaign is to do so directly with the charitable organization via their legitimate website or send a cheque made payable to the licensed charity.
Job and Employment Scams
Job and Employment scams, as the name suggests, are targeted towards people looking for work. You may encounter these employment scams via spam email, scam websites, or online advertisements, even newspaper advertisements.
Some of these job scams maybe home-based jobs like mystery shopping to test services like encash cheques or transfer money, use your bank account to receive deposits and transfer the funds to foreign countries, etc. Other job scams may guarantee jobs to candidates for a one-time fee. Job scams may also take the form of business opportunities as discussed earlier like pyramid schemes.
There are legitimate ways to make money online, work from home, or get a job. So be aware of these scams and do your research before giving away your personal information, making a payment or committing to any job opportunity.
Small Business Scams
In Small Business scams, scammers target unsuspecting small business owners in various ways like false alerts of expiring domain names for their websites; paid advertisements disguised as free offers; and receiving office supplies that you didn't order and then being invoiced for them.
Another form of office supply scam is, you may receive a call from a scammer claiming to be your stationary supplier and saying that they have a limited time special. If you decide to take advantage of this so-called "special", you may end up getting low-quality products that are overpriced. Whenever you get such messages, it's best to not to make any commitment or payment over the phone. You can always take down the details of the offer and call your regular supplier to confirm whether they were the ones calling.
Make sure to advice your staff who are responsible for taking calls or processing payments, so they are aware about these types of scams.
Service scams come is various forms as scammers target people offering lower credit card interest rates, extended warranties, better insurance rates, anti-virus software or computer repair over the internet, better priced telecommunication services, and so on.
The scammers generally create a sense of urgency by saying it is a limited time offer to get you to act quickly. The scammer's intention is to get your credit card details, your bank account number, or install malicious software on your computer which is able to hack into your computer. Never entertain such calls no matter how good the offer sounds. If you are really interested in the offer, you can always immediately call your real service provider to check the legitimacy of the offer.
Tips to Protect Yourself
Tips to Protect Yourself from Scams
How to Protect Yourself from Scams & Fraud in 2014
Now that you are aware of many of the ways scammers use to target unsuspecting people, here are a few tips to help you be proactive and protect yourself from becoming a victim of scams and online fraud.
Personal Information: If you've read the various types of scams, in the earlier section, you will notice that, in many cases, scammers attempt to get access to your personal information including your banking and credit card information. Never divulge any of your personal information to people you do not know and trust. Use strong passwords, especially if you shop and bank online. Also, your mobile phone contains a lot of sensitive information, password-protect it.
Email Messages: As discussed earlier, scammers use spam email as a way to scam people. When you receive spam email, never click on the links nor respond to the email, just delete it. Also, avoid unsubscribing to the email because in doing so, you send a verification to the scammer that it is a valid email address. Sometimes, spam emails look so authentic that you end up clicking one of the links in the email. If you do so and it takes you to an authentic-looking website that asks for your username and password, never do so. It is a phishing attempt.
Phishing: is the act of acquiring sensitive information like your usernames and passwords by masking as an authentic entity. You may receive phishing links via spam email, on your Facebook wall, or even a text message on your mobile phone. Sometimes, you may receive a phishing email link from one of your trusted friends because their email account may have been hacked into, so be careful. Also, be aware when using public Wi-Fi networks or computers, especially if you're banking or shopping online. The main thing is not to click on the link, and if you do, never enter your username and password on the website that the link redirects you to.
Telephone Calls: If you receive calls from people you do not know and trust, or people posing as a trusted entity, like your bank, be on guard. Note down the information from the person who calls you and then call your bank or the company directly to verify that they indeed called. Never divulge your personal and sensitive information. If you do get missed calls or text messages, on your mobile phone, from phone numbers you do not know, don't call back. If you are receiving unwanted phone calls, you may want to register your phone number on the Do Not Call List.
Sending Money: As you've learned from the above, scammers use many ways to con you into sending money that you will most probably never see again. Therefore, before you do make any payment, make sure you know and trust the people or company. If you win a legitimate lottery, they will never ask you to pay a fee to claim your lottery winnings. Never agree to transfer money to and from your account for people you don't know, it could be a money-laundering scam. Remember if someone asks you to pay for a job you apply for as a guarantee, it's a scam.
Security Software: In today's internet world we do so much online and store a wealth of sensitive information on our digital devices like computers, tablets and smartphones. This information, if not protected, can be used by cybercriminals. Therefore it is imperative that we secure this personal and sensitive information. Using a computer protection and internet security software is a good way to do so. I've used Norton Security Products for many years now, but there are many other reputable ones that you can use as well. These software applications help protect your computer from viruses, spyware, malware and other online threats.
Do Your Research: Whether it is a business opportunity, offline or online, do your research before making any sort of commitment. Visit the BBB (Better Bureau Business) website to verify if it's an accredited business. Never bow down to pressure of limited-time offers and opportunities. If you shop and bank online, make sure that you use reputable sources.
How to Report a Scam? What to Do if You Get Scammed?
Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how careful you are, getting scammed becomes a reality in one's life. If you have been defrauded there are steps that you can take to minimize the damage and deal with the consequences before things get worse.
Also, by reporting scams you help alert the authorities and help others who may have become potential targets. Use the websites below which will guide you on what steps to take depending on what type of scam you've been affected with.
- Competition Bureau of Canada
This is the official website of the Competition Bureau of Canada where you can report various types of scams. It includes information from different organizations depending on the type of scam.
- USA.gov Government Portal
This is the official US government website where US residents can report different types of scams. It also is a useful resource to learn more about fraud and scams, as well as, includes statistical data.
Info Research Source: Competition Bureau of Canada
Updated: March 28, 2016
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