Top 5 scams newcomers should be aware of

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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 wary 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. He 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, calmly 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 invented 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. Remember that you have the right to demand a receipt for any payment made for a service or purchase, such as enrollment for a course. If any establishment refuses to give you a receipt, it is a sure 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 a fraudulent email that looks like it comes from a legitimate company, asking you to click on a link that brings you to a fake website. The website often 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.

    What you need to know: Your financial institution 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 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 and then steals your card, 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 fingers with your hand when punching your PIN when you withdraw from an ATM or ABM. 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 herself (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 The Little Black Book of Scams (Your guide to protection against fraud) online or download the copy on the site. This is produced by the Competition Bureau of the Government of Canada.

Read about a new scam that targets newcomers with threats of deportation: ‘Your daughter will be kidnapped today’: Phone scam targets new Canadians with threats of deportation by Ashley Csanady for the National Post.

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Quiz

Top 5 scams newcomers should be aware of

Select the best synonym for each word as used in the article above.

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