Scams happen all year, but there are a few types of scams that can get worse during the holiday season. Please take the time to educate yourself on how these scams work and then talk to your friends and family about them.
The Romance Scam
Online romance scams happen all year, but can get worse in December when people are feeling isolated. Scammers will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust before asking for money. Some scammers pretend to be business people, while others impersonate soldiers stationed overseas. They could be from any country, and might claim to have a legal or financial issue, or an immigration problem. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know.
Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited email. Even by doing nothing more than clicking on a link, you can inadvertently trigger malware to be downloaded on your computer. Malware is software that can do a number of things such as damage your computer and/or take personal information such as passwords without your consent. Confirm that the website actually belongs to that merchant. Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails. Type in the URL yourself.
Make sure the website has “https” in the website address. The extra“s” is there for a reason. HTTPS means Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure and guarantees the website has a certain level of security. You can tell whether the “secure” protocol is in effect by a small lock icon at the beginning of the address bar on the left. Only buy from well known sites that you have researched.
Legitimate organizations may ask for donations in person, over the phone, by mail or via email. Unfortunately, many scams operate this way as well. It can be hard to tell the difference. Scammers may use high pressure appeals and offer to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your donation immediately.
How you can protect yourself and others
Research companies, products or situations before you hand over money or personal information. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “CRA call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
If you want to support a particular organization or charity, consider planned giving. You can decide how much you can afford to give, and contact the organization directly to set up a monthly or one-time donation. If the charity has called you ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity or fund-raiser will give you information about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. You can also call the charity back yourself. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a scam artist.
Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know.
Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, call the New Westminster Police Department — or just tell a friend.
Share what you know with friends and family. Talk about what you’ve heard or read. Talk about the precautions that you’re taking. Ask how they’re protecting themselves. If you suspect a problem, call your local police.