THUNDER BAY – Politics – Anyone can fall victim to a well-run scam at any time. It’s always good advice to ‘keep your guard up,’ but this is especially true where our money or personal information is concerned. Recently, the Competition Bureau of Canada (www.competitionbureau.gc.ca) published its “Little Black Book of Scams” so I’d like to share some of their helpful advice and tips.
According to Competition Bureau Canada Canadians lose tens of millions of dollars to scammers through mail, door-to door, online, and telephone fraud each year. It’s important to understand that these scams do not always involve large sums of money. They could be after as little as a few dollars from thousands of people, or could also be after your personal information as identity theft crimes is also on the rise.
Anyone can fall victim
People often think that if a business or organization has an office or shop with friendly staff and a license to operate that they are not out to rip anyone off because they are monitored by the government. The truth is that the vast (vast)majority of businesses are legitimate, but like every profession there are criminals, and a criminal is a criminal whether they have a license or not. We need to be vigilant when it comes to protecting our finances and personal information while remembering that criminals in the business world like other professions are but a small minority. That being said it’s always better to safe than sorry.
The same goes for our dealings on the internet, but perhaps more so. Although most people are automatically more cautious when they use the internet than when dealing with people in person, it’s still easy to fall for a well-run internet scam. Professional looking websites are cheap and easy to set up so tread carefully. The Competition Bureau suggests eight golden rules to help you beat all types of scammers so take a look and try to keep these tips in the back of your head as you support your local business or surf the net:
- Always get independent advice if an offer involves money, personal information, time or commitment.
- There are no guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes –sometimes the only people who make money are the scammers.
- Do not agree to offers or deals right away. If you think you have spotted a great opportunity, insist on time to get independent advice before making a decision.
- Do not hand over money or personal information, or sign anything until you have done your homework and checked the credentials of the company that you are dealing with.
- Do not rely on glowing testimonials: find soled evidence of a company’s success.
- Log directly on to a website that you are interested in rather than clicking on links provided in email.
- Never send money, or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know or trust.
- If you spot a scam or have been scammed, get help. Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the Competition Bureau or your local police for assistance.
If you think that you may have been scammed, it may be difficult to recover any money lost, but there are ways to reduce the damages moving forward. The Competition Bureau suggests that you report the scam and warn your family and friends of anything suspicious that you come across. If you have been tricked into signing a contract or buying a product or service you should contact your provincial consumer affairs office and consider getting independent advice to examine your options. If you think someone has gained access to your online accounts, telephone banking account or credit details make sure to call your financial institution immediately so they can suspend your account and limit the impact of the scam. Time tends to be of great importance to authorities as they attempt to track down the scammers before they take advantage of others or pack up shop, so please don’t hesitate to contact them if you think you may have fallen victim.
I hope that you have found these tips from the Competition Bureau useful, and that you will share them with your friends and family. I believe that we are always stronger as a community and country when we look out for one and other, so let’s all keep our eyes and ears open moving forward.
John Rafferty MP