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Sextortion, puppies and more: Niagara police warn of 4 online scams

Niagara Regional Police is sharing some of the different online scams they've been seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The scams include sextortion threats and pretending to sell puppies

Scammers are cashing in on more people spending time online, according to Niagara police. (CBC)

Niagara Regional Police is sharing some of the different online scams they've been seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The virus has forced many to stay home, which has led to more internet use, which police say can increase the chances of becoming a victim of fraud. 

Here are four ways police say the scammers will try to deceive you:

Sextortion

Scammers send their victim an email that their computer was hacked. Police say the scammer will normally provide an old password of the user that they found in a previous data breach to intimidate the victim. 

Then, the criminal will ask for bitcoin and threaten to release compromising photos of the user to their friends and family. 

"Chances are the victims computer has not been compromised and the scammers are just hoping the user will send them bitcoin," Niagara police say.

"You can report these e-mails to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre."

Puppies

Another scam becoming more popular involves using empathy — and puppies — as a weapon.

"Many scammers are asking for money up front to "hold" a puppy which is usually sent out of the province by wire transfer or Bitcoin," the police service says.

"Before sending any money do your homework and make sure you're dealing with a reputable breeder. Search the email address, telephone number or any other information to see if there are fraud complaints or positive review for the seller."

Buyers beware

Buying products online may also make someone vulnerable to a cyber attack.

"If you're dealing with an unknown person or web site to make an online sale be cautions if the seller request money be sent via bitcoin, wire transfer or electronic fund transfer (EFT)," Niagara police says. 

Most legitimate sellers will use an online payment processor to conduct transactions.

"Consider using third party payment providers who protect your purchase. If it seems too good to be true it probably is."

Seller beware

And those selling items are also at risk of being victims of cyber crime.

Some buyers will overpay for an item using a fake cheque or transfer. Then, the scammer will ask for money back or ask the seller to forward the money to a fake shipping company.

"By the time the fraudulent payment is discovered the funds are already collected," Niagara police say. 

"If you have any doubts about a payment, attempt to confirm the payments with the bank and wait for the payment to clear."

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