Scheming Mad: Don’t Get Hustled
NO ONE THINKS they’ll ever fall victim to a scam. But the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reports that in 2009 nearly 15,000 people did just that, with those 50 years and older — the most at-risk group — losing more than $13 million. Gord Jamieson, who heads the Payment System Risk with Visa Canada, attributes the loss to the fact that 43 per cent of Canadians over 50 act unwisely when handling their personal information. This includes lending credit and debit cards to friends and family, writing their PIN directly on their cards and freely giving information to others.
Taking simple steps can help you avoid major headaches and financial losses. If you’re a victim of a scam, report it right away. “There’s no need to be embarrassed,” Jamieson says. “Report it so it can be stopped.” Here are some of the favourite tricks of the fraudster’s trade.
THE HUSTLE: IDENTITY THEFT
If your personal data has been unlawfully obtained and used, you’re a victim of identity theft. The RCMP says information such as your name, address, social insurance number (SIN) and mother’s maiden name can be used by fraudsters to obtain credit cards or apply for loans and mortgages — all in your name.
“People receive phishing emails, which are emails that look like they’re coming from your financial institution and ask for your information,” Jamieson says. “Banks will never email you for this information. If it’s done by phone, you shouldn’t give out anything unless you initiated the call.”
PLAY IT SAFE: There’s no need for paranoia. In addition to following Jamieson’s advice, sign all credit cards, never leave receipts at bank machines, destroy pre-approved credit card applications and be alert to missing mail (regular bills and statements that don’t arrive).
THE HUSTLE: PRIZE PITCH
This chameleon fraud can arrive in the form of a letter, phone call, house call or email and tries to exploit your hopes during these turbulent economic times.
“You might receive an email or call saying you’ve won the lottery or a cash prize, and all you need to do is send in an administration fee,” Jamieson explains.
PLAY IT SAFE: “If you’ve won something, you’ve won it. It’s free. You don’t have to send money or an administration fee,” Jamieson says. Be suspicious if you’re receiving something for a contest you don’t remember signing up for. Don’t bite at these “prize offers.”
THE HUSTLE: INVESTMENT FRAUD