The season for celebrating with family and friends is upon us. Unfortunately, however, it’s also the season for criminals and lawbreakers to begin ramping up their activities. When people are distracted by the good things in life, bad people often take advantage.
Holiday scams are nothing new, however in this technological day and age, when people are making a lot of purchases online, they are a lot more prevalent and a lot more advanced. A number of the top holidays scams to watch out for are Internet-based, so be on guard for anything suspicious online. It’s always a good time to brush up on your knowledge of how to avoid phishing and hacking attempts. Keep in mind that if anything looks too good to be true, it most likely is.
Social media ads for substandard products
We’ve all done it. We spot an ad for a product that looks perfect and is a great price on social media. We quickly fill out the order form, receive what appears to be a proper receipt, and then wait for delivery. When the package arrives (if it does), the product is either far lesser quality than advertised or completely different altogether.
Always research new companies you haven’t heard of before buying anything. Check the posts underneath the ad for honest replies, and don’t forget that those saying, “I bought this and it’s great!” could very well be getting paid to do so. Check out the business’s profile on BBB.org and read the reviews. Help others steer clear of holiday scams by reporting the company to the Better Business Bureau’s ScamTracker tool to warn others they are better off spending their hard-earned money elsewhere.
Be wary of alerts from companies and agencies
That ominous message on your phone from a threatening recorded voice warning you to press a button immediately in order to avoid Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) arriving at your door is very scary, but not true at all. Resist the urge to act. As the CRA notes on their website, they will never:
- give or ask for personal or financial information by email and ask you to click on a link
- demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others
- use aggressive language or threaten you with an arrest or to send the police
- send you an email with a link to your refund
- email you a link that demands you fill in an online form with personal or financial details
- set up a meeting in a public place to take a payment
In addition to the CRA, be very cautious of any phone call or email purporting to alert you to problems with your banking, credit card, Amazon, Netflix, or PayPal accounts (and everything of the like). Do not respond to the message or click on any links (including in text messages). Instead, call the company that the message is attempting to appear to be from to inquire if they are attempting to get a hold of you.
Gift card scams
Gift cards are a great gift. And they are great for scammers. Schemes run the gamut from someone promising a free gift card in exchange for personal information to someone posing as an acquaintance who needs help purchasing a gift card this season, for whatever reason. Holiday scammers will also try to force people to pay a (fake) bill with a gift card, which is something a credible company would never do.
Never purchase gift cards online unless directly from the vendor. When purchasing a gift card in-store, always check the packaging and ensure it is intact. Scammers will often try to get information off cards before they are sold, so when it’s time for you to go shopping you discover the funds are already gone. Read more about gift card scams.
Watch out for false or look-alike charities
It’s a busy time of year for charitable donations … so busy that criminals are taking advantage of distraction levels. If you are considering making a donation to a charity that is new or new-to-you, verify its validity at the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org website or on the Canada Revenue Agency website. Once verified, it is safest to donate through a website using a credit card.
After making a purchase online from the comfort of your home, the next step is to await delivery with eager anticipation. As scammers know we are all watching our emails to track our packages’ progress, shipping shams are becoming more prevalent. Watch out for messages asking you to “update your delivery preferences.” That can allow a thief the ability to reroute your packages to themselves, give them access to your personal information, and/or charge you for fake changes to the delivery method.
Also watch for phishing attempts in emails posing as coming from a legitimate delivery company. Check the email address carefully, study the logos closely, and do not click on anything unless you are sure it’s authentic. If a delivery is particularly valuable, purchase shipping insurance and request a signature upon arrival. Never leave packages sitting outside your home for long.
Keep guard of you heart
As the holidays can be a particularly lonely time of year for many, scams targeting the isolated are particularly contemptible.
It begins by meeting someone who appears to be kind, genuine, and interested in you online. Victims establish an emotional connection with an individual who appears to be on the up-and-up and builds up their hopes in thinking that something nice is happening in their life. The scammer takes their time forming trust, and so when they suddenly are in need of several thousand dollars for an emergency of some sort, the request does not seem too out of the ordinary. Never give money to someone you have met online and guard yourself carefully.
Have you been a victim of a scam?
If you have been scammed, the most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. Often victims blame themselves, are embarrassed, and want to sweep the whole incident under the rug.
This is not healthy or helpful, however. Remember, you are not responsible for someone else’s bad behaviour. Seek assistance for the emotional and psychological trauma that comes with being scammed and practice self-care.
If your banking or personal information is at risk from the scam, contact your bank and other creditors immediately to close down your cards. Then file a complaint with your local police service’s district office. You will need to be very careful to watch for signs of identity theft. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports through Equifax Canada or TransUnion Canada and file a report through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Consider purchasing cyber insurance
Cyber insurance has now become a common rider on most home insurance plans. If you are unsure if you have it, give your provider a call to have it added to your policy.
Cyber insurance policies are designed to cover you for losses and liabilities resulting from:
- Privacy breaches (first-party and third-party)
- Computer hacking
- Identity theft
- Phishing scams
- Internet extortion
- Breaches of cyber security
- Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks
Cyber insurance will protect you and your family from the financial repercussions that come with getting hacked and/or a malware attack.
Why brokers are better
Insurance brokers such as those of us at Lane’s work for you, not the insurance companies. We have access to a number of different policies from well-known providers and are able to do the shopping for you, cross-comparing products to find the best coverage and rates available for your particular needs. We enjoy educating our customers, answering questions and thoroughly explaining coverages, so you know you have the best protection for you and your family. Contact us at our Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, and Alberta offices today to talk about your options.