Canadians lost a reported $90 million to scams last year, but the total could be much higher, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB's newly released list of the top 10 scams of 2016 includes information from the bureau's scam tracker website, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and concerns from community partners.

Danielle Primrose, president of the Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C., said the biggest scam last year involved fake employment recruiting.

"Even though it wasn't the largest reported loss, it was reported all across Canada," she said.

As part of the scam, callers "hire" people over the phone or online, and ask them for banking information so they can get paid. Instead, they get robbed.

job board fair employment unemployment sign

Employment scams — involving a person giving banking information to someone offering a job that doesn't exist — was the most prevalent scam in 2016. (Seokyong Lee/Bloomberg News)

"The scammers are getting very savvy now," said Primrose. "They're getting people to fill out a lot of paperwork and they make it look very official. They'll send you a signing bonus and then ask you to wire money back or send it to another employee."

Other scams that made the top 10 this year included online dating, investment fraud and the notorious Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax hoax.

Unreported losses could be much higher

In addition to getting more savvy, the scammers are also getting more profitable, according to Primrose.

The $90-million loss is much higher than in 2015, when $61 million in losses was reported, and 2014, when scammers took $71 million.

While the higher number could be due to increased reporting, Primrose said the vast majority of scams remain unreported.

"We think [$90 million] is only around five per cent of the total loss," she said. "If you do the math, it could be as high as $1.8 billion."

Primrose said many people are reluctant to report a scam because they are embarrassed or don't know where to report. She recommended contacting a local authority or the Better Business Bureau.

Even if you have already been scammed and lost money, it's still important to report it as the statistics are helpful to track the scam, she added.

Top 10 scams

Here are the top 10 scams of 2016 and how much was lost based on the people reporting them:

  1. Employment: $5.3 million.
  2. Online dating: $17 million.
  3. Identity fraud: $11 million.
  4. Advance fee loans: $1.1 million.
  5. Online purchases: $8.6 million.
  6. Wire fraud spear phishing: $13 million.
  7. Binary option scams: $7.5 million.
  8. Fake lottery winnings: $3 million.
  9. Scam involving person claiming to be from CRA: $4.3 million.
  10. Fake online endorsements: Amount unknown.

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Better Business Bureau on top ten scams of 2016