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Watch Out!: A PI’s Rundown of Scams in 2020

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Over the past decade, it seems like scams have only increased in volume. The reason for this is likely caused by the increase in cellphone usage and online computer activity. Scammers have adapted to new technologies in creative ways. Scammers also know how to scare people into making the wrong decisions. So, what does this mean for the new year? Well, first things first. You need to watch out! To help you in this, we’re giving you a PI’s Rundown of Scams to look out for in 2020 including, phone scams, text scams, catfishing, and more. 

Phone Scams

Canadians have seen a significant increase in phone scams within the last three to six months. The unfortunate bit of news here is that until service providers figure out a better way to identify scam calls, this trend will continue in 2020 and beyond.

Phone scams are often difficult to track because the scammer(s) will route the number through different countries, cities, and provinces. Even if the scam originates in India (for example) the call might look like it’s a local number. In other cases, caller ID will display the number simply as, ‘Switzerland’ or ‘Australia’. 

Dealing with scam phone calls is simple. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer the phone. If it’s an important call, the person will leave a message or try an alternative way of contacting you. It’s unfortunate, but in 2020, it’s very likely that the person at the end of the unknown number is only interested in one thing: your money. Again, this is especially true for Canadians.  

If you do answer your phone, here are a few examples of the types of information scammers will try to get:

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

One of the more common scams that we’ll see in 2020 has to do with the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA). When it comes to taxes, many people get scared if they believe they owe unpaid bills. Scammers take advantage of this fear and even go the extra mile. These scammers make hundreds of thousands of phone calls to Canadians every day. 

If you answer a scammer’s call, you might get an automated message telling you that you owe the government money. The automated message might also tell you that you will be arrested if you do not immediately respond. In other situations, you will speak to someone who sounds extremely professional. This person might even have a British accent to fool you into thinking he or she is working for the government. Never give this person your private information. The CRA will never call you to ask for your credit card number or other personal details. 

Money Transfer: The Grandparent Trap

This type of scam is cruel and preys on Canada’s aging population. The Grandparent Trap means that the scammer has done a bit of research online via social media. The scammer will figure out a target and learn the names of his or her grandchildren. Once the scammer has that information, he or she will call the target: the grandparent. The scammer will make the call early in the morning or late in the evening to try and catch the grandparent when they are sleeping and disoriented. Once the scammer gets the grandparent on the phone, the scammer will pretend to be a grandchild. The scammer will act panicked and state that they need money for an emergency. Unfortunately, the grandparent in many cases is so worried about their grandchild that they offer bank account information. Many grandparents will also quickly make a bank transfer, without asking too many questions. 

Text Scams

In 2020, more people will also start to receive strange texts. These text messages will look like they come from banks, lawyers, credit card companies, and even the Canadian Revenue Office. Text scams are very similar to phone scams. The scammer is trying to get personal information from you. This personal information can include account numbers, credit card numbers, SIN numbers and more. 

It is in your best interest not to respond to any text that requests this information! It also helps to know that in Canada, banks, credit card companies and even the CRA will never send you a text requesting personal information. These companies will send you e-mails or even mail through the post. These companies also advise you to contact them directly if you have any questions or suspect you’ve received a scam text. Contacting these companies directly will ensure you get the right information. It will also help you to keep your information private. 

An Example: WhatsApp 

Even your favourite apps aren’t immune to scammers trying to get information from unsuspecting users. According to Chartered Professional Accountants Canada (CPA Canada), WhatsApp experienced a recent issue. Scammers managed to get malware onto user’s phones simply by making a voice call. Users didn’t even have to answer to call for the malware to install. 

While Facebook (the company that owns WhatsApp) fixed the issue, one thing is still clear. Scammers in 2020 are creative and have the technical knowledge to hack into any app or software. Cybersecurity is going to be something we all will need to focus on in order to stop scammers from picking on the vulnerable. 

Dating Scams (Catfishing)

In 2020, online dating will continue to be one of the most commonly used services. Most people these days rely on online dating apps to find that special someone. For the most part, this works out incredibly well! However, meeting someone online without ever meeting them in person can turn into a dangerous game of catfishing. And you’ve guessed it: catfishing is a major scam. 

Catfishing is what happens when someone pretends to be someone else online. It’s easy enough to get away with because all interactions with the scammer are done through a computer or via texting. The reason why this scam is so dangerous is that it often leaves vulnerable people in an even more vulnerable position. Quite often, the scammer will find a victim and pretend to want to be in a relationship. The scammer will eventually ask for money from the victim to help with a serious ‘family emergency’ or personal ‘medical issue’. Hundreds of thousands in savings, investments, and inheritance are given to catfishing schemes. 

I’ve Been Scammed. What Do I Do Now?

If you fall victim to one of these 2020 scams, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadians were scammed out of $43 million in 2019. That’s a huge number! The thing is, scammers are very clever and will try many different avenues to get what they want. They will target individuals they see as vulnerable. So, if you aren’t a target today, that doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future. The best thing you can do is to keep yourself informed of the ways in which scammers are operating in 2020, so this article is a great start! 

But what if you’re looking to see if you can get your money back? Or what if you want to try and identify the person who scammed you so that they never scam another person again? If this sounds like something you’re interested in perusing, consider hiring a private investigator for help. 

Seek Out A PI

A PI or private investigator can help you to deal with the aftermath of a scam. A PI is highly trained in many different investigative techniques. These investigative techniques include, surveillance, interviews, security, locates and more. Modern PI’s, at least the ones who keep up with the latest in investigative techniques, will also know how to track someone who doesn’t want to be found. In particular, this includes tools and techniques for online (and phone line) tracking. 

Hiring a PI or private investigation agency can help to find the scammer and even get you your money back. At the very least, finding or identifying a scammer will prevent other people across Canada from experiencing a similar situation.

As a private investigation agency, our PIs hear about and work with clients who have been scammed often. We know how difficult it can be to spot and stop a scammer. It’s why you need to question your online and phone activity. If you receive a message or call that just doesn’t feel right, hang up and don’t answer! It’s your best defense against scammers in 2020.

About the Author

Whitney Joy Smith

Founder of The Smith Investigation Agency in 2014, Whitney Joy Smith’s extensive background as a private investigator is matched only by her passion for the role. A graduate of several respected institutions, including Northwest Florida State College and George Brown College, her early years in life were spent between Canada and the United States. This education, along with her formative years as a private investigator in various agencies, informed much of her knowledge of private investigative laws, regulations, and operating standards in both countries.

The recipient of numerous industry awards and accolades, including the Consumers Choice Award, Best in Ottawa, and many others, Whitney takes pride in working closely with her ever-growing agency to raise the bar, maintain compliance, and meet the investigative needs of clients. Whitney is active in various membership and supporting roles, including the CPIRC, CBN, CAPI, Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and many others. Her experience-driven, thought-provoking articles have been featured in everything from Readers Digest to Business News Daily, and she strives to continually redefine standards for those in the private investigative and security fields. Learn more about Whitney and the team at The Smith Investigation Agency today.

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