Top 8 Scams to Watch Out For

Here, common scams to watch for, plus tips to stay a step ahead of the crooks.

From fake online product reviews and Facebook friend requests from people looking to get you to download malware onto your computer to tried-and-true offline scams, it pays to stay ahead of the scammers.

Here, common scams and what you can do to protect yourself.



Medical Alert Scam

Promising a free medical alert system, this telemarketing scam targets older adults and their care partners.

How it works: People are told that a friend or family member has paid for a health  monitoring service, but in order to verify their identity, they need to supply bank or credit card information. The result? The victims’ credit cards are hit with a monthly service fee (which is often difficult to get refunded). Also – no surprise! – the medical alert system never arrives.

How to avoid it: As always, be extremely wary of free offers that require personal information up front and always check to confirm a “gift” with the supposed friend or family member the caller says paid for it.

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Auction Reseller Scam

Looking to downsize or tackle some spring de-cluttering? Online auction sites, such as eBay, are a popular way to get cash for items you no longer want or need. So it’s not that surprising that scammers have figured out a way to fool sellers into shipping goods without receiving legitimate payment.

How it works: A crook essentially plays on a seller’s sympathy and asks if the goods could be shipped the same day. This “emergency” could be a child’s birthday, a bon voyage gift for a loved one, or even a member of the military shipping out for duty. The seller receives an email that looks like it’s a payment confirmation from PayPal (which is easy to duplicate), but it turns out to be a fake.

How to avoid it: Always confirm payment in your PayPal account before shipping, especially to an overseas address.

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Invisible Home Improvements

This scam isn’t new, yet crooks continue to pull it off. So-called home improvements either involve shoddy workmanship or are virtually non-existent. Most targeted areas in the home are those that are difficult to inspect, such as roofs, chimneys, air ducts and crawl spaces. Typically, these sort of domestic repairs are also the most expensive.

How it works: Most scammers appear right at your front door, offering a deal since they’re already working in the neighbourhood. Increasingly, though, they are also using other ploys to reach homeowners such as telemarketing, email and social media.

How to avoid it: Don’t be tempted by convenience or a promise of a quick turn-around or a good deal. Only use home contractors that come recommended by someone you trust. You can also check before signing to any repair or renovation work.

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Scam Texts

With online and mobile banking becoming increasing widespread, it’s hardly surprising that cyber crooks have found a way to take advantage.

How it works: One popular tactic is to use scam texts — known as “smishing” — to steal personal information. The message looks like a text alert from your bank, asking you to confirm information or “reactivate your debit card” by following a link on your tablet or smart phone.

Details of the scam may vary, but the outcome is the same: crooks get a hold of your banking information and perhaps even your ATM number and PIN. If that isn’t bad enough, you may even inadvertently download malicious software that gives the scammer access to anything on your phone or mobile device.

How to avoid it: Always confirm such requests with your bank directly, before responding.

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Foreign Currency Scam  

An investor’s dream! Investments in foreign currency promise high return and low risk.

How it works: Often using real current events and news stories, scammers pitch an easy investment with low risk and high return when you purchase, say, Iraqi Dinar, Vietnamese Dong or, more recently, the Egyptian Pound. The idea is that when these governments revalue their currencies, increasing their worth against the dollar, you can simply sell and cash in.

Unlike similar hoaxes in the past, you may even take possession of real currency. The problem is that they will be very difficult to sell, and it’s unlikely they will ever significantly increase in value.

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Do Not Call Scams

It was supposed to be a good thing. The National Do Not Call List (Canada) and the National Do Not Call Registry (U.S.) were set up to give consumers a free and easy way to reduce telemarketing calls. But, as it turned out, the scammers continued to call. And, according to the BBB, some have even found a way to scam consumers by pretending to be a government official calling to sign you up or confirming your previous participation on the Do Not Call list!

How it works: In one variation, scam artists ask for personal information, such as your name, address and Social Insurance/Social Security number. In another, they try to charge a fee to join the registry.

How to avoid it: Just hang up. These services are free, but sharing personal information with a scammer could be pricey indeed.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Stop the Scammers


Fake Friend Scam

Have you ever received a Friend Request on Facebook from someone you thought was already your Friend? If you hit Accept, you may have actually ‘friended’ a scammer.

How it works: This recently popular scam involves the theft of people’s online identities to create fake profiles, which can then be used in a number of ways. First of all, a new Friend can learn a lot about you to scam you later. This friend can also “recommend” sketchy websites that download malware onto your computer, use your account to scrape information on your other Friends, or even impersonate a seemingly trustworthy person to perpetrate a romance scam.

How to avoid it: Don’t let your guard down on social media. Keep your privacy settings high and don’t share confidential information. It’s a sad, but true reality of our virtual world that you can’t always be sure that your Friends are really your friends.

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Casting Call Scam

This might be one to share with the kids, grandkids or any aspiring performers you may know. While not as widespread as the other scams listed here, it has seen an increase in recent years thanks to popular TV talent shows such as “Canadian (and American) Idol.”

How it works: Scammers, posing as agents or talent scouts, use phony audition notices to fool aspiring performers or show contestants into paying to try out for parts that don’t exist. The ruse can be a way to sell services like acting lessons or a photography session. Or worse, scammers may look for a fee for online “applications” or upcoming “casting calls.” Further, the information provided on the online application could be everything a scammer needs for identity theft.