Top Ten Scams

Top Ten Scams of 2011

#1 – COMPUTER VIRUS TELEPHONE SCAM

The victim receives a phone call and the caller states that he is from Microsoft or an Internet service provider (ISP) and that there is a virus on the victim’s computer, or there is a problem with the victim's computer and that he can fix the problem. The victim is asked to a log onto a website. The suspect then takes control of the victim’s computer, causing the computer screen to go black, and charges the victim to make the computer work again. The victim provides credit card information and the suspect returns the victim’s computer to an operational status.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- understand that no real company will call you regarding a computer virus or computer problem
- understand that this is a scam based in India
- understand that the phone number shown is fake
- simply hang up on the suspect without discussing the matter
- don’t go on any websites, or download anything
- if scammed and you provided credit card information, contact your credit card company immediately and ask them to reverse the charges

#2 – FAKE LOTTERY SCAM

A suspect sends out a mass mailing, a notice of lottery winnings, to thousands of people. The letter requests money in order for the recipient to receive the lottery winnings. Believing they have won a lottery prize, the victim sends money according to the directions in the letter. This scam targets the elderly – often via black market bait lists.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- understand no legitimate lottery asks for money to receive winnings
- understand you cannot win a lottery you have not entered
- don’t send money to collect a lottery winning
- discuss this scam with the elderly, who are the target of this scam

#3 – EVENT TICKET RE-SALE SCAM

The suspect buys an event ticket for a concert, sporting event, etc., with a stolen credit card number. He lists the real event tickets online. The victim responds to the ad, then meets with the suspect and pays cash for the authentic event tickets. The event organizer discovers the tickets were purchased with a stolen credit card number and cancels the tickets. When the victim attends the event, they are denied entry due to the ticket cancellation.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- purchase event tickets through established event ticket re-sale companies
- use a credit card to purchase tickets so he purchase can be cancelled later if the tickets are fraudulent
- if you must buy event tickets from private individual:

 - tell the person you will be asking for photo identification
 - meet in a public place
 - bring a friend
 - examine the event tickets
 - ask for photo identification
 - write down seller’s personal information
 - be ready to have the event tickets cancelled by the organizer

#4 – DISTRESS CALLS/EMAILS

Type 1
Personal information about the victim is obtained through mail theft or from the victim’s garbage. The victim receives a phone call from someone stating they are a family member, generally a grandson, and in distress in a foreign country. The caller tells the victim to keep the information confidential and to wire money. The victim wires the money, later discovering the family member was never in trouble.

Type 2
The suspect gains access to the victim’s email or Facebook account and sends a distress email to all of the victim’s email contacts. The e-mail states that the victim is in distress in a foreign country and to keep the information confidential. As in the first type, the victim is asked to wire money to the foreign country, later discovering their friend was never in trouble.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- protect personal written information
- use full security features on email accounts
- don’t use simple passwords like “Password1234”
- if provided a distress message, call the person involved and/or their family
- understand that if you are asked to wire money and to keep it quiet, this is a scam

#5 – PHANTOM RENTAL PROPERTIES

Victim finds a great deal for an advertised rental property. They interact with the suspect by email or meeting in coffee shops. They are asked for a damage deposit and rent in cash or to be wired to an account. The victim pays the suspect without ever seeing the rental property. When the victim goes to move in to the rental property, they discover that it is occupied and that the suspect never had the right to rent the property.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- attend and inspect all rental property
- ask potential landlord for photo identification
- check with the apartment manager regarding who can rent the property
- pay with post-dated cheques
- understand that if you are being pressured to pay cash for a rental property you have not seen, it is scam
- for non-resident property rental, use established rental companies
- use the Better Business Bureau to check out rental companies

#6 – COUNTERFEIT CURRENCY / SELLING ELECTRONICS ONLINE

The suspect answers an online advertisement for an item for sale. They meet with the seller and agree to purchase the item, paying with counterfeit currency. The victim does not know how to check for counterfeit money or is too embarrassed to examine the money. They discover it is counterfeit after the suspect has left with the purchased item.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- be aware that counterfeit suspects are looking for online electronic items for sale, such as iPhones, iPads, Xboxes, Playstation 3s, or Nintendo PlayStations
- meet in a public location with a friend
- know three security measures about currency and always use them
- if in doubt, return the money and walk away from the deal with your property
- learn how to Detect a Counterfeit Bill

#7 – SECRET / MYSTERY SHOPPER SCAM

Victim answers a job advertisement for a mystery shopper and is given the job. The suspect and the victim never meet face-to-face. The victim receives a cheque in the mail and is instructed to convert it into cash for the shopping. When the cheque is deposited into the victim’s bank account, it initially clears, and they withdraw cash to purchase items from stores, believing they are a mystery shopper. At some point, the victim is requested to wire money to the suspect. After they have done so, the victim is told by their bank that the cheque did not clear at the destination bank. The victim must pay back their bank for the amount of the cheque provided by the suspect.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- understand that many mystery shopper jobs can be scams, check out any company with the Better Business Bureau
- understand that cheques can take as long as 4-6 weeks to clear at the destination bank based on the number coding, not the name on the cheque
- understand that whenever you are asked to wire money based on a cheque deposit, it is normally a scam

#8 – ADVANCE FEE SCAM

This type of scam is also known as the “419” scam after Section 419 of the Nigerian Penal Code that prohibits this activity in Nigeria or just the “Nigeria” scam. A suspect sends out thousands of e-mails or letters stating that a large sum of money can be moved out of a foreign country. The recipient is advised that they can get a large share of the money if they help the writer get the money out of the foreign country. The victim responds to the email and a relationship is built, leading up to the suspect asking the victim to wire money. Once the money is wired, the victim never hears from the suspect again.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- understand that all advanced fee requests are scams
- if you receive a letter in the mail or via fax, simply ignore it
- do not respond back to these emails or faxes – you will be targeted as part of a “suckers” list and fraudsters will share or sell your details to other fraudsters
- report emails to your email server (i.e. abuse@yahoo.com, etc.) so your internet service provider can terminate any accounts that abuse their systems

#9 – FAKE BANK SECURITY EMAILS

The suspect emails thousands of fake bank security alerts, complete with bank logo and email address, asking for the recipient’s personal bank information. When the victim opens an attachment, a virus is loaded onto their computer. The victim supplies personal bank information, which the suspect uses to access their bank account.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- use up-to-date anti-virus software
- understand that no bank will email you regarding security issues
- be aware that all bank alert e-mails are scams
- don’t respond to any bank alert e-mail
- delete all bank alert e-mails
- report e-mails to your e-mail server (i.e. abuse@yahoo.com, etc.) so your internet service provider can terminate any accounts that abuse their systems

#10 – CHARITY DOOR-TO-DOOR or HOME / FIRE INSPECTOR

Suspect walks door-to-door and speaks with residents, pretending to be a fire or building inspector or collecting for charity. The victim feels pressured and pays the suspect cash.

How to Avoid Being a Victim:
- understand that no inspector would be going door-to-door asking or money
- be aware that most charities no longer solicit door-to-door
- if in doubt, close and lock your door, and phone the organization the suspect reports they are with
- tell the suspect you are not interested and ask them to leave
- if you feel scared of the suspect call the police
- if you think the person is a scammer, call the police with that information after the person leaves
- if you want a home inspection, initiate once yourself – do not let any unknown person into your home that comes to your door without a prior appointment
- if you want to give money to a charity, reach out to the charity through their website or by phone
- do not respond to strangers at the door
- report suspicious door-to-door sales people to Consumer Protection BC at 1(888)564-9963 or http://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca