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Online shopping, weight loss, cryptocurrency debut on top 10 scams list

Last Updated Feb 28, 2018 at 3:17 pm PST

(iStock Photo)

Miracle weight loss and cryptocurrency scams are new additions to the BBB's annual top ten list

Tax scams still going strong as experts advise people to protect themselves

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It seems more and more people are falling victim to scams in Canada, according to the Better Business Bureau‘s annual top 10 money scams of 2017.

Canadians lost $95 million to scams last year, a 50 per cent jump since 2015.

Online shopping topped the list and is one of three new additions to the top 10 list. Several hundred Canadians lost $13 million to e-scams last year including fake websites, counterfeit goods, delivery and refund issues and free trial and subscription traps.

“It’s no surprise that online scams are front and centre this year as more than 90 per cent of consumers now shop online at any given time,” BBC BC President Danielle Primrose said, adding even legitimate retailers are struggling to combat scams. “Don’t rely on a simple Google word search for a product. It could easily lead you to a questionable website third party seller… if the price is too good, it probably is.”

Top 10 List

10. Fake invoices
9. Shady Contractors
8. Advanced fees for loans
7. Weight loss programs or products
6. Income tax
5. Cryptocurrency investments
4. Employment scams
3. Online dating
2. Wire fraud/spear phishing
1. Online purchases

Miracle weight loss scams are one of three new addition to the list.

“Seeking weight loss miracles online can lead you to consider risky and potentially expensive strategies,” explains Assistant Deputy Commissioner Victor Hammill with the Competition Bureau of Canada.

With more than 60 per cent of men and 46 per cent of women overweight or obese in Canada, Hammill says the market is rife with fraudulent weight loss programs including pills, lotions and devices. He says another tactic employed by scammers is to offer a free trial if customers pay for shipping, however, it often leads to recurring credit card charges.

“Remember, they are after your money, not your wellness,” he said. “One thing is clear, without a proper diet, exercise, and sleep routine no magic potion or device is going to be a real solution.”

The other newcomer to the list is bogus cryptocurrency investments.

“Since November of 2017, the commission has received 50 complaints, inquiries, or referrals related to ICO [Initial Coin Offerings] or cryptocurrency,” said Doug Muir with the BC Securities Commission.

The ICO is done through online, and the person gets a digital token or coin with the promise that they will have a return on their investment when the underlying business comes to fruition and that coins can be traded to make money. However, sometimes the business is fake and the investors are left with nothing.

He urges anyone to take precautions before making investments to ensure safety and avoid fraud.

“Ask questions, don’t invest in something you don’t understand,” he said. “Talk to a registered advisor, know where your money’s going and how it’s going to be used, know who you’re dealing with, and check registration which can be done on our website.”

An old trick got a new twist as income tax scammers are now demanding payments in Bitcoin, a currency the Canadian Revenue Agency does not accept.

Some of the other usual suspects on the list include online dating and wire fraud.

The BBB estimates Canadians have lost $1 billion to online dating scams and that upwards of 25 per cent of profiles are fake. Meantime, $20 million was lost to wire fraud where crooks impersonate company executives to trick the accounts payable department to transfer them money.