‘Tis the season of holiday scams once again. As online shopping becomes the norm and more people are on their computers, you can be sure that scammers will be taking advantage of this opportunity. We need to be extra vigilant with our online transactions.
Here are the usual online scams to watch out for:
Package delivery notice scam
How it’s done: Targets receive a text message or an email from Amazon, UPS, FedEx, or Canada Post saying a package is on the way or that they’ve missed a delivery. To track the package or check the “missed” package, the target is asked to click on a link.
The scam: Thinking that it’s their Christmas gift, the person clicks on the link and are led to a website where they will be asked to key-in their credit card number, or personal information like address, email or phone. This is called phishing. The scammer collects the data to access their accounts (and steal their money, if it’s a bank account) or use the information for another scam. This could also involve malware. When the target clicks on the link, they unknowingly download malware that locks their computer. Or worse, if the person’s computer is part of a network (as in an office for example), the embedded code can hack the entire organization’s system and hold it hostage. This is called ransomware. The perpetrator then threatens to destroy your data unless you pay them a certain amount of money (usually using cryptocurrency).
How not to be a victim:
- Never click on links on emails or text messages. This is a common phishing technique. Scammers can also send messages under the guise of the CRA, banks, or utility services aside from courier services.
- Check the sender’s email address. Delete it immediately if it does not include the name of the company they claim to represent (or if it ends in .com not .ca). Also know that Canada Post will not contact you by email unless you’ve requested it.
- See if the text or email has typographical, grammatical, and layout errors. Haphazardly written messages and messy logos (usually pixelated or awkward-looking) are signs of a scam.
Be scam-smart – Tax refund, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
Fake charity scam
Did you know that one-third of all charitable giving is done in December? If you are among the many generous Manitobans who amp up their giving during the season, make sure that the charity you’re giving to is legitimate.
The scam: Fake charities can lure you into donating by using compelling graphics on social media. They usually have a “donate” button below the ad that you can click on. This leads you to a website where you will need to provide your credit card number and other account details.
How to make sure that the organization is a real charity:
Before clicking on the link and sending them a donation, check their name on:
You can also verify by making a Google search. Try to look for the particular campaign. You can also go to the organization’s website to see whether their projects are above board.
Online marketplace scams
Thinking of buying a gift or using a service from Facebook marketplace, Kijiji or Craigslist? Make sure that the seller you’re buying from is legitimate and will not “ghost” you (disappear) after sending your payment.
How to avoid getting scammed:
- Don’t agree to pay in advance. Ask to see and check the merchandize first.
- Be aware of fake accounts and fake ads. Always review seller information before buying.
- Beware of ads that offer extremely low prices or unbelievable discounts on items. Read the post comments, if there are.
- Don’t agree to meet with the seller at night in secluded places. Choose a public place, or better yet, suggest a Buy and Sell Exchange Zone nearest you. These zones are located in four Winnipeg Police Service Stations if you’re in the city.
- Know Purchase Protection rules. For example, under Facebook’s rules, you are allowed to request a refund if you didn’t receive your order, if the product is damaged or different from the one described in the listing, the seller doesn’t follow their refund policy, or if the purchase was unauthorized.
General tips to protect yourself:
- Be familiar with common scams – Stay up-to-date. Information is power! Use the BBB Scam Tracker or go to CRA’s Scams and fraud page. You can also download the Little Black Book of Scams (2nd edition). It’s available in eight languages.
- Don’t use unsecure connections. Don’t check your online bank account, CRA account, and other sensitive accounts using a free WiFi hotspot like in a library or coffee shop. You can be easily hacked even if the site you’re using employs encryption. Also, you might forget to log-off if you’re using a shared computer, making it easier for the next person to open your account.
Consumer 101, Consumer Reports
- Keep your passwords secure. Make them difficult to guess. Change them periodically and opt for two-factor authentication whenever it’s available.
- Don’t rush. Scammers use urgency to fool people. Take your time to ask questions, consult someone, or do research. You should never be bullied into buying something or sending money to someone you don’t know.
- Never give sensitive information (e.g. account numbers, PIN, immigration numbers, SIN, etc.) by phone, text or email.
Have a safe and happy holiday season!
Article updated December 1, 2022.
Sources: Slam the scam –Protect yourself against fraud, CRA; 12 scams of the holidays, Canadian Bankers Association; and Is using public WiFi still a bad idea? Bree Fowler, Consumer Reports. Accessed December 7, 2021.
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