According to the Vancouver Police Department, there were 1,410 cybercrimes reported in Vancouver from January 2017 to March 2018. Of those, 51% were fraud related, with losses totalling more than $1 million.
Interestingly, millennials represented almost half of those cybercrime victims, contrary to the usual assumption that seniors are most often the victims of online fraud.
The Vancouver Police Department reported the following as the five most common online scams.
1. Sale of goods
In this scam, fraudsters collect payment for goods but never deliver on the product. A common example is fake event tickets on sites like Craigslist.
One way to help ensure you’re buying a legitimate ticket is to purchase it from a reputable seller. Craigslist advises that dealing locally, face-to-face will help you avoid most scams.
>> Learn more: 10 ways to protect yourself when online shopping
2. Residential fraud
The 2016 Vancity Renter Survey found that a whopping 51% of renters in Metro Vancouver and Victoria have encountered a rental scam.
The most commonly reported scam in the survey was the “out-of-town landlord.” Basically, the scammer poses as a landlord that lives out of town and therefore cannot show the rental. The landlord then asks the renter for a deposit with a promise to send the keys.
To avoid rental scams, watch for these common red flags: price is very low, only communicates by email, asks for money up front and refuses to meet in person.
>> Learn more: Top 5 rental scams and shams in Metro Vancouver and Victoria
3. Job opportunity fraud
There are different variations of job opportunity fraud, including:
- “Work from home” schemes involving the processing of payments, which is actually money laundering.
- Get-rich-quick schemes that require an upfront investment, which the scammer takes off with.
- Fake job placement services that collect fees without providing any service.
It’s a good idea to verify the identity of the person or business you’re in contact with. Use a means outside of the original communication, like doing a separate web search or returning a call through a publicly listed number.
>> Learn more: 8 scams you need to know about
4. CRA scam
You’ve probably received one of the calls: An automated message threatens you with arrest over unpaid taxes. They may also use Caller ID spoofing, which involves changing the information that appears on the Caller ID display to get people to trust them.
Hopefully you were fortunate enough to identify the call as a scam, but if you called back you would have been further threatened by someone claiming to be an agent of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Be aware that the CRA will never request personal or financial information over the phone, nor will they ever threaten people with police involvement.
>> Learn more: Do we still have to worry about CRA scams?
5. Phishing emails or texts
Phishing is a type of online deception, using fraudulent emails or texts sent to unsuspecting users. It’s designed to steal personal data, such as credit card numbers, passwords or other account information, by masquerading as a legitimate business.
In a typical phishing incident, a scammer will send you a fraudulent email message that appears to come from websites you trust – like your financial institution or your phone company – and will request that you click on a link where you will be asked to enter your online credentials and provide personal information through a fraudulent website. The scammer will then use this information to access your bank or credit card accounts, spend your money or steal your identity.
There are several red flags to look for, such as an urgent or aggressive tone, request for personal information and suspicious links.
>> Learn more: How to spot an email phishing scam
If you believe you’ve been targeted by a scammer, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.