One of the most frequent questions received at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is why are so many people victims of scams and frauds despite the continuous efforts to inform and educate the public?
Although there is no simple answer, one factor that is highlighted from the complaints and Scam Tracker reports the BBB receive is that the impact is subjective. An individual's age, background, experiences and level of awareness are some of the things that influence their likelihood to be a victim. For instance, an individual who is not tech savvy is more likely to be a victim of an online scam, because they are more unaware of the dangers on this platform.
“Canadians lose millions of dollars annually to scams and frauds, the majority of which go unreported,” said Karla Davis, Manager of Community and Public Relations at BBB serving Mainland BC.
While prevention through education is one of the best strategies to fight scams and frauds, people will also need to decide that they will actively protect themselves in 2019.
Here are some tips from the BBB:
1. Do research before dealing with a business - Before making a purchase or hiring a service provider, check with BBB to see the business profile and read the customer reviews. Only do transactions with reputable dealers and as always, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Read the fine print - Know all the terms and conditions of your purchase or service agreement, especially if the offer or advertisement mentions a risk free trial. If details such as a physical address, contact information and return policy are missing, particularly, if the transaction is online, be wary about sharing your credit card information.
3. Check your credit card statements regularly - Practice to review your statements in detail as you receive them. This is a good way to identify charges to your card that you did not approve. The sooner you spot these unauthorized transactions, report it to your credit card company and request a chargeback, the better your chances to get your money back and prevent future unauthorized access to your account.
4. Avoid clicking pop up ads - Scammers have increased their use of pop-up ads, especially on social media, to trick people into clicking questionable links or unknowingly signing up for subscriptions; so avoid them. You can also reduce the number of pop-up ads by using the ad blocker feature on your device and by updating your anti-virus software.
5. Change your passwords regularly - Changing your passwords at least three times per year is a good way to prevent identification theft. Practice to have a password on your mobile phone, since it is one device that is easy to lose and usually contains a lot of private and confidential information. When creating your passwords, they should be at least 12 characters long and should never be family or pet names or even words founds in the dictionary. Mark March 15 on your calendar as National Password Day - a great opportunity to refresh the passwords!
6. Keep ignoring tax scammers - Although Canadians are getting better at identifying this scam, we must not get complacent. Always remember that the Canada Revenue Agency does not send emails, text messages or threatening phone calls for unpaid taxes.
7. Never participate in any pyramid scheme - No matter how tempting the offer, say no to any kind of 'get rich quick' opportunity, as they are usually pyramid schemes and these are illegal. Be very wary of offers that claim to give you significant returns in a very short amount of time, have no paper trail and require cash only.
8. Educate others and report scams and frauds - Always share what you know about scams and frauds with your family and friends, as knowledge is one of the best forms of protection. If you or anyone you know is a victim, report it to BBB and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Keep updated on the scams that may be active in your area by checking BBB's Scam Tracker regularly.