Vancouver police release 'Top Ten Scams for 2014'

The Vancouver Police Department has released a list of this year's top ten scams and how people can avoid being victimized.

The list surveys this year's biggest scams and how to avoid being victimized

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The Vancouver Police Department has released a list of this year's top ten scams and how people can avoid being victimized.

1. Astroturfing

How often do you base purchasing decisions on online product or service reviews? The Vancouver Police Department is warning people to read all the reviews, watch out for bad spelling and grammar, and cross-reference them whenever possible in order to avoid falling victim to astroturfing. It's "a term for posting fake online reviews on websites such as Google or Yelp in order to boost a company's public profile online."

2. Catphishing

Are you looking for love online? Be wary of travelling singles who are a little short on cash, and in the midst of an emergency. Vancouver police say "Catphishing" is a romance scam where "a fraudster pretends to be someone they are not on an online dating or social media website, for the purpose of taking money or personal information from their targets." 

3. Enterprise Fee Scheme

It's one of the oldest tricks on the Internet — but it's still this year's top online scam. The 'Enterprise Fee Scheme' involves an "unsolicited request for modest financial assistance in exchange for a great deal of money," according to Vancouver police. The request may come from an online pen pal in Nigeria you never knew you had, a long forgotten high school friend on Facebook, or a seemingly kind soul offering to purchase or exchange your losing shares. Either way, they will likely be asking for an upfront payment to cover transaction costs with grandiose promises of big returns.

4. Affinity Fraud

Remember the old saying, 'If it's too good to be true, it probably is?' If an acquaintance, friend, or even a family member offers you high returns with little or no risk, you may be a target of "Affinity Fraud." This financial scam involves fraudsters appealing to one's sense of community or faith, interests, language, or other common bond in order to gain trust and steal money. Vancouver police are warning if someone "just like you" is trying to convince you to "build your wealth through special investments with high returns only they know about" — especially if they want you to keep it a secret — keep your wallet closed.

5. Curbers

They are the greasiest of the greasiest. Curbers are unlicensed junk car dealers who, according to Vancouver police, often say "they are selling the vehicle for a friend and will come up with a sad story." They advertise through online ads or local newspapers, often listing multiple cars under the same phone number, and will agree to meet in a parking lot where they will ask for cash or a money transfer. They often do not have the vehicle's history on hand, and are in a hurry to get it sold. Probably because it's stolen.

6. Lottery Scams

He's long gone, but the dream of having Ed McMahon show up on the doorstep unannounced holding a cardboard cheque with lots of zeros on it is still alive and well. Vancouver police say people — particularly seniors — continue to be victimized by lottery scams, where they receive a letter saying they have won millions of dollars. All they have to do is send back a ‘processing fee' and personal information like birth dates and their mothers' maiden name. Unfortunately, it is the scammers who are hitting the jack pot. They get the 'processing fee' and the victim's name is added to a 'suckers list.' 

7. The Unknown Caller

"Your computer security has been compromised." They may be the six most feared words in the era of digital surveillance. But Vancouver police are warning if you receive a call like this out of the blue by someone who claims they can help if you send money, hang up or ask what phone number you can dial to call them back. "The Unknown Caller" is the top telemarketing scam of 2014. Watch out for the old, "Your grandchild is being held in a Thai prison," phone call too.

8. The Insta-scam

​As much fun as it is to discover "Which Beyonce you most resemble" and as tempting as it is to "Like" and "Share" your favourite brands on social media, Vancouver police are warning young people to beware of "Insta-scams." This top youth scam of 2014 involves scammers posting links to free giveaways by popular retailers on social media. In reality, however, the link may redirect users to online advertisements or quizzes trying to get credit card or personal information. Just remember, nothing in life is ever free.

9. Pretender scam

Looks can be deceiving — especially when it looks like a final invoice "from an 'authorized' service provider for things like online advertising, web hosting, website domain registration or trademark copywriting services" demanding you pay up or be put into collections, say Vancouver police. This year's top top business scam involves fraudsters misrepresenting themselves as legitimate businesses and charging "customers" for goods and services they did not purchase.

10. Celebrity gossip spam

They make headlines, and compromising video tapes. But Vancouver police are warning Internet users not to click on the latest viral video of Justin Bieber "sans clothing." They say it could be a "Celebrity Gossip Scam," which involves fraudsters posting "bogus content on social media networks" that, when clicked, redirect people to online surveys. Your click, say police, puts "advertising commission in a spammer's wallet" or malicious malware on your hard drive.

While the many scams in the digital age involve the Internet, mail fraud still makes Vancouver Police Department's Top Ten Scams for 2014. (CBC)


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