Top 5 scams newcomers should know about

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Anyone can be a target of fraud. Frauds or scams are “schemes of deception designed to secure unfair or unlawful gain or to damage another person” (Financial Consumer Agency of Canada). More often than not, these schemes are designed to get money out of you without you even noticing it. Data show that people get victimized no matter what level of education, income, age or ethnicity. However, newcomers should be especially aware of the following scams that could capitalize on their being unfamiliar with laws, regulations, or their need for employment.

These scams and frauds can be perpetrated face to face or via telephone, email, or online. Here are the top 5 scams newcomers should be aware of:

  1. CRA phone scam

    How it’s done: In this scam, an “employee” of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) calls to inform you that they have received notice that you are under investigation for tax fraud and tax evasion. The caller’s tone is authoritative. They will use scare tactics to pressure or frighten you. The purpose of the scam is either to solicit financial information or get some money from you. In one version of this scam, the supposed CRA employee will say outright that you owe the government some money and you need to send it to them via wire transfer or prepaid credit cards. The caller may threaten to send the police to arrest you if you don’t pay up.

    What you need to know: The CRA sends formal letters to communicate to taxpayers. They will never call you to ask for confidential information or threaten to arrest you. If you receive a call like this, put the phone down and don’t give out any information. Read I received a call from an immigration officer. Was it a scam? from the IRCC/CIC website Help Centre.

  2. Job training scam

    How it’s done: A prospective employer will promise to hire you, but first, you have to train for the job for a fee. Along the way, the company may add more courses that you need to take and increase the fees. In the end, you may not even get hired because they will tell you that you did not do well enough during the training or some other reason.

    What you need to know: It is easy to deny a verbal promise. Unless there was a contract, it will be hard to hold a company responsible for a commitment made to you verbally. You have the right to ask for documentation of an agreement and a receipt for any payment made for a service or purchase, such as enrollment for a course. If an establishment refuses to provide these, it is a sign that something illegal is going on.

  3. Work from home scam

    How it’s done: These “guaranteed jobs” are advertised through spam mail or online ads. You might even get an email offering a job where you use your bank account to receive and pass on payments for a foreign company. Some may offer to make you a “secret shopper” to test the services of a cheque-cashing or a money transfer company. Others can offer writing or editing jobs (with an astronomical hourly rate) or a “business opportunity that would be hard to pass up.”

    What you need to know: No real employer will ask you to invest money first before they hire you. And no one will give you a guaranteed job before they even know your credentials. So never give your personal and financial information to someone you don’t know and haven’t even met. In this type of scam, the greatest danger is when the cheques turn out to be counterfeit. You will be held accountable for the entire monetary loss by your bank.

  4. Phishing

    How it’s done: You receive an email asking you to click on a link that brings you to another website that asks you for personal information. The website can be made to look like your bank’s website to lure you into trusting it. You will be asked to enter or verify personal information (such as a credit card number, an online banking password or a Social Insurance Number), which is captured by the fraudster. This can also be done by phone where a person pretending to be from your bank or a government agency will call you to say that there is a problem in your account and ask for your personal information. An example of this is the recent Health Card scam.

    What you need to know: Your financial institution or government agencies will never email or call you to ask for personal information they should already have on file. If you receive an email like this, don’t give out information. Contact your bank or the government agency directly.

  5. Credit card or debit card fraud

    How it’s done: This is when someone steals your credit card or debit card Personal Identification Number (PIN) then makes purchases or withdraws money. To do this, a scammer could take a peek while you are keying-in your PIN, steals your card outright, or through card skimmers (a version of those card readers you tap, slide or insert your card into when paying for purchases) that copy information from your card.

    What you need to know: Your credit card number and PIN are highly confidential. Always cover your hand when punching in your PIN when you withdraw from a machine. Never disclose your card number and PIN over the phone or in an email. If you see that the card reader being used looks unusual, or if the cashier takes your card and insists on inserting it in the card reader (and takes a long time doing it), abort the transaction and report it to your bank.

    You can watch a video on credit card or debit card fraud and how to prevent it from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada:

    Red flags of frauds and scams

    Generally, these are the warning signs that you need to terminate a transaction:

    • When the offer is too good to be true.
      “High returns with little or no risk—guaranteed!”
    • You are urged to invest without being given much information about the investment.
      “It’s complicated. You don’t need to know the details.”
    • You are pressured to make a decision fast or on the spot.
      “You must act now. Tomorrow will be too late.”
    • You are given “insider information” that others don’t know about.
      “Very few people know about this. That’s why it’s such a hot tip.”
    • You are asked to keep matters secret.
      “Don’t tell anyone or this fantastic loophole will close.”
    • You are asked to give financial information (PINs, credit card numbers, passwords, banking account information, etc.) or personal information (Social Insurance Number, date of birth, address, mother’s maiden name, etc.) over the phone, by email or on a website you do not know.
      “We just need to confirm your information.”
    • You are made to feel guilty if you refuse to go along with the transaction.
      “Don’t be so cautious. Don’t you trust me? You’ll regret passing this up.”

    For help

    If you come across one of these scams, or was a victim, you should:


    Sources: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s Financial Literacy Page; CRA phone scam uses fear of tax man to swindle ‘not so smart’ Canadians by Sophia Harris, CBC News; “Money: Are you the target of a scam?” by Dale Sproule, Canadian Newcomer Magazine; “Beware of top scams: newcomers vulnerable,” Canadian Immigrant.

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Community Resources

Also read What kinds of fraud should newcomers to Canada watch out for? from the Government of Canada site.

There are many other types of scams out there. Read about them in Download The Little Black Book of Scams (2nd edition). It’s available in eight languages. This is produced by the Competition Bureau of the Government of Canada.

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Top 5 scams newcomers should be aware of

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