Top Ten lists are usually a cause for celebration; but not in the case of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which last week revealed its list of the top 10 scams of 2015.
There was some good news in the report, which said that Canadians lost some $61 million in scams in 2015, which was down $10 million from 2014. However, that figure is misleading, as it’s likely just 5% of what was actually lost, since victims are often too ashamed to come forward.
While the decrease indicates that Canadians are probably becoming more adept and savvy at spotting a scam, scammers are finding new ways to fleece people, including making changes to existing scams. “The Canada Revenue Agency scam is our number one scam this year,” says Danielle Primrose, President and CEO of the BBB serving Mainland BC. “It was the most reported scam by far and it took several forms to get your money. And it didn’t just happen around tax time; all year long we received calls.”
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports that more than 17,000 Canadians reported being affected by the CRA scam in 2015. However, it wasn’t the most lucrative scam. That title goes to Catphishing, the name given to online dating scams. “Canadians are still giving away money in hopes of a new romantic relationship,” says Primrose.
Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor with the BBB serving Mainland BC, says that seniors are one of the most targeted groups, with both the CRA and lottery scammers going after them. “Studies have shown that as we age we trust more. It makes us happier, but it also makes us more susceptible to scams.” He also notes that seniors are more vulnerable because they’re often lonely. “People reaching out to them is good for them.”
Both seniors who have assets and those who are worried about a lack of money for the future are vulnerable: the former because they have disposable income, and the latter because they want to provide for their remaining years. Kelly encourages people to watch out for signs that older family members are being scammed.
“Check up on your elderly loved ones and make sure they’re not being taken advantage of. Try to be present and inclusive without being too controlling.”
He says that another targeted group is people for whom English is a second language, particularly with the CRA scam. “The caller will often threaten them with deportation.”
Anyone who has been the victim of a scam, or thinks a family member has been, is encouraged to contact the RCMP. If you think something is a scam, do a Google search or contact the BBB.
“It amazes me that people take this stuff at face value,” says Kelly. “We’re too trusting.”
The top scams of 2015 were:
Top Extortion Scam: CRA Income Tax scam (loss of $2.9 million)
Top Heartbreak Scam: Catphishing ($15.6 million)
Top Prize Scam: Fake lottery scam ($6.5 million)
Top Financial Scam: Investment fraud ($6 million)
Top Employment Scam: Secret shopper ($3.9 million)
Top Subscription Scam: Free trial traps ($2.9 million)
Top Impostor Scam: Spear phishing ($5.8 million)
Top Private Sale Scam: Overpayment/refund ($5.3 million)
Top Emergency Scam: Fake relative needs cash ($1.9 million)
Top Lending Scam: Advance fee loans ($989, 634)