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Top frauds targeting New Brunswickers in 2020

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More than 350 New Brunswickers reported last year, losing a total of more than $1.6 million to fraud and scams. 

The figures come from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), which ranked the top categories of fraud in New Brunswick to be extortion, theft of personal information, merchandise, investment, romance and job scams. 

Compared to 2019, this is an increase of almost $480,000 lost to scams in New Brunswick. 

“It’s hard to say if this number has increased due to more scams and frauds in the province, or due to an increase in people coming forward to report a fraud or scam,” says Marissa Sollows, Director of Education and Communications of FCNB. “It’s estimated that only five per cent of people report frauds or scams so the actual numbers of victims and money lost are likely much higher.”

The increase could also be due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which gave fraudsters a new opportunity to take advantage of Canadians. From early March until the end of December 2020, the CAFC received reports from 8,136 Canadian victims of COVID-19 frauds and scams with a total dollar loss of $6.9 million.  FCNB formed an internal fraud prevention messaging task force to monitor COVID-19 related scams in the province and launched a radio and TV campaign last spring to warn New Brunswickers.

FCNB encourages New Brunswickers who recognize the signs of a fraud or scam to take the next step and report it.  “Don’t let embarrassment or fear keep you from reporting fraud,” says Sollows. “Every day that you delay reporting fraud is one more day that the scammer is free to spend your money and target your friends and family as their new victims.”

Learning to recognize the red flags of scams and being wary and vigilant can help protect you from becoming a victim of fraud. A wealth of resources to help you learn the signs are available at FCNB.ca.

Here are the top frauds and scams reported in New Brunswick in 2020: 

Extortion
Total reports in New Brunswick: 309
Reported dollar loss: $75,363

How it works: A scammer uses coercion to unlawfully try to obtain money or services from you. There are different variations, but they all involve threats. Threats of violence, property damage, or reputational harm may take place by phone, text, email, or internet to create a sense of urgency and alarm to get you to send money.

Red Flag: They prey on your fears by threatening to blackmail you or tell you that you will be arrested. When you panic you may not be thinking clearly and are more likely to share information that you normally wouldn’t.

Where to report: The CAFC, the RCMP or your local police.

Personal Information
Total reports in New Brunswick: 99
Reported dollar loss: N/A

How it works: A scammer, pretending to be from a business, government agency, a bank, or utility company, urgently asks you to verify your personal information. They may request information such as your name, address, birth date, account information or Social Insurance Number (SIN). Once you provide this information, the scammer may use it for identity fraud.

Red Flag: They try to catch you off guard by calling early in the morning or in the middle of the night when you are less alert and more likely to share information that you normally wouldn’t.

Where to report: The CAFC, the RCMP or your local police.

Merchandise
Total reports in New Brunswick: 59
Reported dollar loss: $27,694

How it works: Fraudsters may place advertisements on popular classified sites, social networks or create websites that look and feel like legitimate manufacturer. Fraudsters will generate traffic to their products by advertising them at deep discounts. You may receive counterfeit products, lesser valued, unrelated goods, or nothing at all.

Red Flags:

  • If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be sure to research before you buy.
  • The seller declines to meet in person to make the exchange or asks you to pay with unusual methods such as gift cards or cryptocurrency. Whenever possible, you should exchange goods in person or use your credit card for payment.

Where to report: The CAFC, the RCMP or your local police.

Here are some of the top frauds and scams in New Brunswick based on dollars lost reported in 2020:

Investments
Reported dollar loss: $865,000

How it works: Scammers will solicit for investments into false or deceptive investment opportunities. These opportunities falsely promise higher-than-normal returns. However, investors lose most or all their money. Common forms of investment fraud include cryptocurrency, initial coin offerings and pyramid or ponzi schemes.

Red flag: 

  • The investment claims to be “zero risk” or guarantees a specific return. 
  • The scammer requests that you invest using cryptocurrency, money wire or sending a gift card. 
  • The scammer uses aggressive selling techniques. Always do your research, ask questions and verify registration, before making an investment.

Where to report: FCNB at 1-866-933-2222 or fcnb.ca

Romance
Reported dollar loss: $536,189

How it works: Scammers most commonly use email, social media sites, and dating websites to set up a fake profile and pretend to be looking for a companion. They will express strong feelings for you to gain your trust. Usually the scammer will tell you they need money for a personal or medical emergency, to help pay their bills, or for travel expenses to come visit you. But really there is no emergency and they do not intend to visit.

Red flags:

  • The relationship is moving very fast. They will express strong feelings for you very early on to gain your trust.
  • Scammers will often hide behind fake photos. They will make excuses as to why they cannot meet in person, to avoid revealing their true identity. 

Where to report: The CAFC, the RCMP or your local police.

Job
Reported dollar loss: $30,661

How it works: Scam artists often target people looking for employment online. Once you are “hired,” the scammer sends you money or a cheque to deposit into your bank account. The scammer then directs you to withdraw all the money from your bank account and forward it back to them or to a third- party using wire transfer, cryptocurrency or gift cards. Whatever story they tell the ending is the same—there is no job, the cheque is a fake, and you are on the hook for the money after the cheque bounces.

Red Flag: The job posting advertises high pay for little experience. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Before providing any personal information, be sure to do some research on the employer.

Where to report: The CAFC, the RCMP or your local police.

FCNB has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation regulating mortgage brokers, payday lenders, real estate, securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Online educational tools and resources are available at www.fcnb.ca.