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Telephone and internet scams

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What are some common telephone and internet scams?

Phishing

Someone might pretend to be the government, your bank, your employer, someone that you owe money to, or even an old friend. Scammers use phone calls, emails, or fake websites to trick you into sharing your personal information. These tricks are sometimes called "phishing".

The scammers then use your information to apply for credit cards, bank loans, and other kinds of credit. They can take money from your bank accounts and shop with your credit cards. This is sometimes called "identity theft".

If you receive telephone calls from collection agencies or creditors for accounts that you do not have or purchases that you didn't make, you might be a victim of identity theft. Also, your bank or other financial statements might show withdrawals, transactions, or transfers that you didn't make.

If you find that someone has used your identity, there are a few things you should do as soon as possible.

  • Report the identity theft to the police.
  • Contact the financial institutions, credit card issuers, or companies that are involved.
  • Report the identity theft to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC).
  • Cancel any missing identification.
  • Contact the credit reporting agencies, Equifax and TransUnion.

There is contact information for these organizations in "What can I do if I am a victim of a scam?". You can also read CLEO's resource, Identity theft.

Telemarketing scams

Some scammers pretend to be telemarketers calling to offer you deals on products and services. They will ask you for your bank account or credit card information to pay for them.

They can then use your information to take all the money out of your bank account or charge your credit card up to its limit. Then they might send you a low quality item that is not what they described, or they might send nothing at all.

For information about your rights when shopping by phone, mail or internet, see CLEO's resource, Online, telephone, and mail-order shopping. To find out how to order a copy or view it online, see the back cover of this booklet.

To avoid most telemarketing calls in the future, register on the National Do Not Call List. To register, visit www.lnnte-dncl.gc.ca or call 1-866-580-3625.

Prizes and lottery scams

In this scam, you get a phone call or email saying that you have won a prize, such as cash, a car, or a vacation. The scammer will tell you that to collect your prize you must pay a small fee, and they might ask for your credit card information. You will not receive the prize that you were promised but now the scammer can make charges on your credit card. If you send them money, you will not get it back.

"CRA" scam

This is a very common scam, especially around tax time. Someone will call or email you pretending to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). They may tell you that you owe taxes or that you are in trouble with the tax department and that you must send payment or give them your credit card or banking information. Sometimes they send you to a fake website that might look exactly like the real CRA website.

It is best to just hang up on the call or delete these emails. The real CRA will never phone, email, or text you asking for information. If you are concerned about your tax account, you can call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281. You can also visit the CRA website at www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency to set up an online tax account.

1-900 Numbers

1-900 telephone numbers are often used for services like dating hotlines, weather updates, contests, and horoscopes. 1-900 numbers might sound like they are toll-free but you are actually charged very high rates when you call. Other numbers like this include 1-976 and 1-809.

Real toll-free numbers that you can call for no cost use area codes 1-800, 1-888, and 1-887. Some telephone companies offer a call-blocking service that stops 1-900 calls.

Emergency or "grandparent" scam

In this type of scam, a caller or email sender pretends to be a close friend or a relative in trouble. They might ask you to send money because of an accident, an injury, an arrest, or because they have been robbed. Like other scams, this is likely just a way for scammers to get access to your bank account. They often target seniors but anyone of any age can be the victim of this kind of scam.

Cheque overpayment scams

This scam usually happens when you are selling something online or in the newspaper. A buyer will send a cheque to pay for the item, but the cheque will be for a larger amount than you asked for. The scammer will tell you that they made a mistake, and ask you to deposit the cheque to your account and send the extra money back to them. Later the bank will tell you that the cheque is fake. You usually cannot get back the money or the items that you've sent to the scammer.

Advance fee fraud

In this scam, you receive an email or a letter from a person asking for your help to transfer a large amount of money. They offer to share the money with you if you agree to give them your bank account information to help with the transfer. Sometimes they will ask you to pay fees and taxes before you can receive your share. But you will never receive any money from them. And once the scammers have your bank account information, they can take any money in your account.

Another version of advance fee fraud involves companies that promise you a loan or credit card, even if you have no job or bad credit. They tell you that you have to pay a fee before you can get the money or the card. But once you pay the fee, you never get the loan and the scammers disappear with your money.