Protect Yourself From Becoming A Victim in 2014
Victoria, BC – BetterBusiness Bureau (BBB) serving Vancouver Island announces the Top Ten Scams of 2013 and simple consumer tips to protect yourself from becoming a victim in 2014.
(Download Top 10 Scams Brochure)
1) Electronic Credit Card Skimming
Information stored on credit cards can be stolen by a variety of different electronic skimming devices. Information is stolen when a card is swiped through, or a PIN number is entered on either a small electronic device attached to an ATM or POS terminal or a large independent hand held device used by an unscrupulous cashier. With the development of RFID technology, information can be collected off a card without it ever coming into direct contact with an electronic skimming device.
CONSUMER TIP: Protect your credit card information by always paying attention to your surroundings when you make a payment. If possible, keep the credit card in your possession at all times. If you are concerned about RFID technology invest in a magnetic sleeve, wrap tin foil around your card, or carry multiple RFID cards at once. Only carry your credit card with you when you need it, and keep it stored in a secure location.
iJacking,a.k.a. identity theft occurs when a con artist or hacker steals another person’s private information (i.e. SIN, date of birth, banking or credit card information) for the purposes of financial gain. While there continues to be an increase in private information being stolen electronically by strangers, the old fashioned methods of having information stolen from your mail, trash, recycling or from your wallet (often by people you know) continues to be an issue. The most common form of ID theft occurs when a fraudster uses your credit card or banking information to make purchases for themselves.
CONSUMER TIP: It is almost impossible to totally prevent your identity or private information from being stolen. Despite our best efforts company databases get hacked into and wallets accidentally get lost. The best thing you can do is to use extreme caution as to whom you share your private information with. Shred all personal documents, store private documents in a secure location and regularly monitor your financial statements and credit reports.
3) eShopping Swindles
The Internet is filled with online stores and auction sites marketing alluring, cheaply priced, counterfeit products being pitched as the real thing. Legitimate Gucci handbags and Rolex watches do not come cheap, no matter what the sale price. Before you buy any product online, be sure you know the difference between a real and a fake.
CONSUMER TIP: The key to protecting yourself from eShopping swindles is to do your research, understand the product and always know who you are doing business with. Just like you would with a bricks and mortar business you want to know you can trust the seller. Visit bbb.org to look up BusinessReviews for online stores across North America.
4) Penny Auctions
Penny auctions offer an opportunity to get bargain prices on hundreds of items. They also offer web-based business opportunities for many eager new online entrepreneurs. But beware…the penny auction industry is rife with scams and unsatisfied customers. BBB receives ongoing complaints from people spending substantially more for a product or online business opportunity than it is really worth.
CONSUMER TIP: Before getting involved with penny auctions as a bidder or an online entrepreneur, be sure you do some careful research. Not all penny auctions are created equal. Make sure you read and understand the fine print on any contracts before you sign up. Know your financial limits and really be sure you understand the true market value of the product or online business opportunity.
5) Charitable Rip-offs
Beware charitable solicitations that ask for cash donations only, that use high-pressure tactics, that cannot provide a receipt or that do not provide tax-deductible receipts. It is also important to know if you are donating to a registered charity or society, and how your donation is going to be used.
CONSUMER TIP: To protect yourself, find out if the organization is registered to operate in B.C. as a charity or society. You will also want to know if the organization has a gaming license or if it can provide a tax receipt. Check with BBB (bbb.org) before handing over any money for a charitable cause.
6) Prize Offers
Beware free prize and contest offerings that are really intended to acquire your personal information or to get you to buy an unrelated product or service. BBB received many reports of consumers winning a prize, which when delivered, resulted in an unexpected high-pressure sales event for an unwanted product.
CONSUMER TIP: If you do not remember filling out a form to enter a specific contest or win a prize, do not accept the winnings. If you do fill out a form for a draw, contest or prize offering, carefully read the fine print and be aware that such opportunities are often created to obtain your personal contact information. This information is often sold to third parties for marketing purposes.
7) Love Cons
Sadly the victims of many investment scams and fraudulent business opportunities were taken advantage of by a love con (also commonly called affinity fraud). Con artists build relationships and gain the trust of unsuspecting victims, convince them to invest in or help with a financial situation, then steal their money and disappear.
CONSUMER TIP: Don’t let your heart get in the way of your better judgment. When it comes to your money do not invest or lend out more of it than you can afford to lose outright. Always do your due diligence and careful research before getting involved. Ask lots of questions and ask for written documentation. If the investment amount is large, review the opportunity with independent financial and legal advisors.
8) Helping Mr./Ms. Sad Sack
There has been an increase lately in people who are unemployed or homeless knocking ondoors and asking if they can assist homeowners with projects in return for food or money. Be aware of the risks involved anytime you “hire” someone to do any work on your property.
CONSUMER TIP: Before hiring help consider whether the person is trained or qualified, if they carry insurance and if they are a risk of harming you, themselves or your property. Good intentions to help others can often lead to disastrous consequences. If you wish to help someone in-need it may be better to just give them a donation and save the “work” for the qualified professionals.
9) Vicious Downloads
Hackers often create “real” looking website links or downloads to try to get you to unknowingly install malicious software on your computer. With the click of abutton it is easy to accidentally install viruses and spyware on to your computer, or to have it taken over completely by a hacker.
CONSUMER TIP: Vicious downloads can be found as hyperlinks or attachments in emails, in search engines, on fake social media profiles, in text messages or on fraudulent websites. They also can be very difficult to detect. Be certain of the source before you download anything. Keep your anti-virus software up to date, and never click on a link or attachment from someone you do not know.
10) Virtual Currency
Virtual currency is essentially a currency that exists in electronic form and is traded peer-to-peer, via online wallets. Its value is determined by how much people are willing to exchange for it. Controversial brokerage companies have recently emerged providing services to convert digital currencies into real paper money.
CONSUMER TIP: Virtual currencies are not regulated by any country, government organization or financial institution. Their value is recognized solely by their users – consumers and businesses. Exchange rates fluctuate continuously, making them a high-risk currency. Criminals are increasingly using virtual currencies to launder money and the digital nature of these currencies makes them susceptible to hackers, who have stolen millions of dollars worth.