Top 10 list of common scams unveiled by BBB

Scammers are using new guises to misrepresent themselves and separate consumers from their cash, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The agency released its annual list of top 10 scams of the year last week:

1. Brand spoofing

Brand spoofing (aka phishing) is a term for email, text messages and websites fabricated and sent by criminals to look like they come from trusted businesses and agencies to collect personal, financial and sensitive information.

QUICK TIP: Just delete these messages and do not click on links.

2. Advance fee loans

Consumers have reported losing substantial sums of money responding to advertisements that “guarantee” loans.

QUICK TIP: It is illegal for a company to charge a fee in advance to obtain a loan, even if that fee is disguised as the first or last month’s payment.

3. Gold buying schemes

The price of gold soared in 2011. Similar to gold rushes of the past, a strained economy and high demand resulted in many selling, trading and receiving unfair returns when cashing in their gold and jewellery.

QUICK TIP: It is important to do your research. When choosing an appraiser, find someone whom you know and trust.

4. Financial elder abuse

Common  frauds include tricking seniors into giving out banking information; encouraging unnecessary home repairs, telemarketing and mail fraud.

QUICK TIP: Signs a senior is being financially abused include: missing belongings, unusual activity in bank accounts, suspicious stories, sudden changes in Power of Attorney or Wills and numerous unpaid bills.

5. Power saving claims

The switch to smart meters in B.C. fostered a rise in false claims and deceptive ads by some scammers selling energy=conservation devices

QUICK TIP: Protect yourself from deceptive advertising by doing your research.

6. Door-to-door sales

Each year a variety of unscrupulous door-to-door salespeople use high-pressure tactics to frighten people into purchasing expensive, substandard products and services.

QUICK TIP: Don’t give in to high- pressure tactics. If you feel threatened by an aggressive salesperson, ask them to leave your property. If they refuse, call police.

7. Virus fixing scheme

A scammer claims to be phoning from Microsoft about a problem with the person’s computer. In order to “fix” it, the computer owner is told to download a program. The catch: the owner has downloaded damaging spyware.

QUICK TIP: Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism. Check with the organization, using the contact numbers found on their website.

8. Fraudulent locksmiths

Consumers reported “local locksmiths” advertising online using a local telephone number and address, but when contacted, consumers are connected to a call centre in another city.

QUICK TIP: Don’t just pick the first “local” company you find online. Confirm the company address and ask for the legal name of the business

9. Penny auctions

Online ads, often designed to look like news reports, are cropping up on popular websites claiming you can get great deals on electronics with online penny auctions. Even if you don’t win the item, you still pay for the bids you placed, which add up.

QUICK TIP: Before providing any personal information, read all of the fine print.

10. Anti-social network

Social network users are often subject to targeted advertising, direct messages and scams.

QUICK TIP: Your computer should always have updated spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a secure firewall. Be wary of messages that direct you to another website via a hyperlink

For more detailed advice, visit


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