Catphishing to Astroturfing: Top 10 scams revealed
Published Friday, February 28, 2014 3:13PM PST Last Updated Friday, February 28, 2014 7:31PM PST
In a bid to raise awareness about common scams plaguing Vancouver, police, the Competition Bureau and the Better Business Bureau released a list of the top 10 offenders Friday.
The timing of the alert coincides with the start of March, which has been dubbed Fraud Prevention Month.
“There’s a lot of resources out there, but people just need to come forward and report it,” said BBB president and CEO Danielle Primrose.
The bureau had about 1.7 million calls and emails from concerned citizens across Vancouver last year.
But Primrose warned that’s just the tip of the iceberg as both police and the BBB don’t know the full extent of damage by fraudsters because of victims’ reluctance to come forward.
“I don’t know if the target is mainly elderly people, I think it’s just you’re on some kind of random list,” said VPD Det. Const. Linda Grange.
Top advertising scam: Astroturfing – A term for posting fake online reviews on websites such as Google or Yelp. It’s used to boost a company’s public profile online through what is supposed to be an unbiased consumer review websites.
Top love scam: Catphishing – A romance scam in which 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.
Top online scam: Enterprise Fee Scheme – The most famous version is the “Nigerian Letter.” It’s an unsolicited request for modest financial assistance in exchange for possibly millions of dollars. The central feature of the enterprise fee scam is to ask for an upfront payment to cover transaction costs, to “unlock” a larger sum of money or facilitate a transfer of shares.
Top financial scam: Affinity Fraud – It happens where you’d least expect it. Right in your own community, with people you know and trust like religious institutions, colleagues or other association connections and even friends and, sometimes, family. The fraudsters’ business is lying to people to gain their trust and steal their money.
Top sales scam: Curbers – Unlicensed dealers get junk cars and then sell them from parking lots. Curbers do not disclose the vehicle’s history to the buyer, often hiding a lien, accident damage or rolled back odometers. Sometimes, the car turns out to be stolen.
Top mail scam: Lottery Scams – Consumer Protection BC continues to get calls about this scam that often targets seniors.
The typical scenario involves an individual who receives a letter in the mail saying they have won a large sum of money. The victim is then instructed to send back money as a processing fee and include personal details. To rub salt in the wound, the victims are also added to a ‘sucker list’ and are likely to receive additional similar offers in the mail.
Top telemarketing Scam: The Unknown Caller – You receive a call that your computer security has been compromised and that the caller can help you, or that your grandchild is in jail and in desperate need of money. In either case, it is a cold call that has come out of the blue and is asking you to take action quickly and send money now.
Top youth scam: The Insta-scam – Scammers are using social media sites like Instagram or Facebook to target younger users. Through a mobile app like Instagram, a scammer can post pictures of prize giveaways that look to be linked to big brands and retailers, but in reality may redirect you to online quizzes or other websites trying to get your credit card information.
Top business scam: Pretender Scam – A business receives an invoice which appears to be from an “authorized” service provider for things like online advertising, web hosting, website domain registration or trademark copywriting services. In all cases, the service is misrepresented and the business is often threatened that they will be put into a collections’ service if they do not pay the invoice.
Top scam of the year: Celebrity Gossip Spam – Scammers are always looking to capitalize on a consumer’s need for new, sensational, or fascinating information. They post content that mentions celebrities in compromising situations in order to get clicks. Clicking through a spam video or picture can often redirect you to an online survey that puts advertising commission in a spammer’s wallet despite the content being non-existent or a fake. In some cases, a person may end up installing malware on their computer after clicking through the video content.