2024-01-09T09:22:14-05:00Nov 9, 2023|

Common scams that newcomers to Canada should know about

When newcomers move to Canada, it usually takes them a few months to settle in and figure out the local way of life. Many are unaware of standard government processes or authentic ways of sharing their banking or personal information with organizations, making them easy targets for various frauds and scams. Statistics from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre indicate that in the first half of 2023 alone, $283.5 million CAD was lost to fraud and over 21,200 people were scammed. 

Scammers are always finding ways to get hold of your hard-earned money, usually playing on your fear or concern. In this article, we will share some common scams to enable you to identify red flags, protect yourself, and know how to respond if you’re targeted.

Banking and tax scams

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1. Fake emails or calls asking for your banking information (phishing emails/calls)

You may get an email or a call trying to convince you to invest money in an enticing scheme or ask you to provide your personal information or passwords related to your banking accounts. The sender or caller may appear to be from a legitimate company, your bank, a subscription service, or a government agency reaching out to you because there was a problem in your account. To resolve the issue, they may ask you to click on a link that takes you to a fake website. The website is often made to look similar to your bank’s website to lure you into trusting it. Once you enter your personal information such as credit card number, bank account number, or online banking password, those details are intercepted by the fraudster.

What you should know about phishing emails and calls

  • Your financial institution or government agencies will never email or call you to ask for personal information they already have on file. 
  • Watch out for emails from unknown senders that direct you to a website that asks for personal information. 
  • Never give out personal information unless you know who you are giving it to, and that the website is secure.

What to do when you receive a phishing email

  • Delete it. Legitimate companies don’t send bulk emails to people they do not know.
  • If you receive such an email, don’t click on any links or give any information about yourself. 
  • If you have any doubts about where the email came from, make sure to check the identity of the sender. Contact your bank or the government agency to verify authenticity.

2. Fake phone calls from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

You may receive a call from someone posing as an employee of the CRA. They will inform you that you are under investigation for tax fraud and tax evasion and that you owe the government money. They may use an authoritative tone to scare you and get you to either share your financial information or transfer money to them via wire transfer or prepaid credit cards. They may even threaten to send the police to arrest you if you don’t pay up.

What you should know about communication from the CRA

The CRA will never:

  • Ask for information about your passport, health card, driver’s license, or demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others.
  • Use aggressive language or threaten to arrest you. 
  • Give or ask for personal or financial information by email and ask you to click on a link or email you a link asking you to fill in an online form with personal or financial details.
  • Send you an email with a link to your refund.

How to report a suspicious call about taxes

If you get a suspicious call about taxes, you should: 

  • Hang up, then confirm if the call was real by calling the CRA at 1-800-959-8281.
  • If the call wasn’t real, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
  • If you have lost money to a fraudster, report it to your local police.

3. Credit or debit card fraud

A credit or debit card fraud occurs when someone steals your card, gets access to your Personal Identification Number (PIN), and then makes purchases or withdraws money. Keep in mind that credit card fraud does not necessarily require your physical credit card to be stolen; it can also mean that someone got access to your credit card details.

How to avoid credit and debit card fraud

  • Never disclose your card number and PIN over the phone or in an email.
  • Always cover your hand when punching in your PIN while withdrawing cash from a machine or making purchases at a point-of-sale counter.
  • If you see that the card reader being used looks unusual, or if the cashier takes your card and insists on inserting it in the card reader (and takes a long time doing it), abort the transaction and report it to your bank.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship (IRCC) scams

1. People posing as the government of Canada staff

You may receive a call from someone posing as a government or IRCC official. They might try to scare you by saying that you have done something wrong (like not filing proper immigration paperwork) and that you owe the government fees. They may also say that you could lose your immigration status or be deported if you do not pay the amount due right away. In some cases, they may ask for information such as your date of birth, passport number, Social Insurance Number (SIN), landing date, credit card numbers, or bank account details. 

What you should know about immigration-related scams

IRCC or CIC will never:

  • Contact you over the telephone to collect fees or fines;
  • Be aggressive or threaten to arrest or deport you;
  • Threaten to harm you or a member of your family, or damage your home or property;
  • Ask for personal information over the phone (except to verify your information that they already have on file);
  • Ask for financial information over the phone;
  • Try to rush you into paying right away;
  • Ask you to pay fees using prepaid credit cards, Western Union, Money Gram, gift cards, Bitcoin, or any other similar services; or
  • Send police to arrest you for unpaid fees.

How to report a suspicious call from IRCC or CIC

If you get a suspicious immigration-related call, you should: 

  • Ask for the name of the person calling and then hang up.
  • Contact the IRCC Call Centre (1-888-242-2100) to confirm that the call was real.
  • If the call wasn’t real, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by telephone at 1-888-495-8501, through their website or by email (info@antifraudcentre.ca).
  • If you have lost money to a scam artist, report it to your local police.
  • If your SIN has been stolen, you should contact Service Canada at 1-866-274-6627.

2. Compromised SIN

You may receive a call or an email from someone claiming to be a government official. They will tell you that there’s a problem with your Social Insurance Number (SIN) and you need to re-confirm the number with them. Alternatively, they may claim that your SIN has been linked to an instance of fraud or criminal activity. They may even ask for your date of birth and other personal details that could potentially lead to identity theft. 

What you should know about sharing your SIN details

  • Keep your SIN number in a safe place and never give the details to just anyone. Very few organizations such as the bank, government agencies, and your employer need that information.
  • Landlords might ask for your SIN, but you can refuse to provide it. 
  • Do not provide your personal information to anyone over the phone and do not click on links in emails or text messages from unknown senders.

Note: If you use a caller ID, an agency’s phone number may appear real but is not. Some scam artists use technology to fake the number, so this is not always proof that a caller is legitimate.

Employment scams

1. Job offer related emails or phone calls

You may receive an email or phone call from a prospective employer willing to hire you, but they will first ask you to complete training for the job by paying a fee. Upon paying the fee, they may add more courses that you need to take and increase the fees to be paid. Eventually, they will inform you that you cannot be hired because you didn’t do well enough during the training.

You may also be approached by fraudulent recruiters who claim they can guarantee you a job for a fee. In Canada, third-party recruiters are paid by employers, not employees, so beware of any recruitment or employment agency that asks for a fee for their services. Moreover, the hiring decision ultimately lies with the employer and external recruiters cannot guarantee that they’ll find you employment.

The fake job offer scam is another one to watch out for. If you receive a job offer from an organization you haven’t applied to or interviewed with, it can be a scam. Often, these fraudsters will ask for personal information, including your Social Insurance Number and bank details. In some cases, you may be asked to share your references’ personal information, making them vulnerable to scams as well.

2. Advertisements about working from home

You may see “work from home” ads online, or you may receive them through spam mail. Once you approach them, they may offer the position of a mystery shopper to test the services of a cheque-cashing or a money transfer company. Others may offer writing or editing jobs with a very high hourly rate or present a business opportunity that would be hard to pass up. Eventually, they will ask for your bank account details to receive and pass on payments. Alternatively, they might ask you to pay a deposit for “set-up” costs and send you a counterfeit cheque for a larger than promised amount and ask you to transfer the extra amount to them.

What you should know about employment scams

  • A legitimate employer will never ask you to invest money before hiring you and will only offer a position after evaluating or assessing your skills and credentials.
  • Never give your personal and financial information to someone you don’t know and haven’t met.
  • Beware of counterfeit cheques sent to you in order to establish trust.
  • Be mindful of where you post your resume. Scammers use legitimate websites to seek out victims.

What you should do to verify the authenticity of a job offer

  • Get the name of the representative who called or emailed you, check the company website and call the organization to confirm the position.
  • Ask for a formal contract that outlines the clauses agreed upon verbally or through an email.
  • Demand a receipt for any payment made.
  • Ask the employer for the official job listing on their company website or other job sites.

Housing scams

Cheap accommodation in a great location

Most newcomers do not have a credit history or an employment letter during their initial weeks or months in Canada. Hence, they find it challenging to rent a place – this makes newcomers easy targets for rental scams. The most popular version of this scam is when the landlord doesn’t reside in Canada but wants you to wire them the money so they can send someone with the key to you. 

Fraudsters will entice you with a very attractive listing: sought-after area, great amenities, and low price. These scammers use websites like Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace to find victims. They may use photos from an old listing, from a house that’s up for sale, or from short-term rental sites like Airbnb, to make it look authentic. They pose as the landlord and may claim to be abroad and unable to meet in person to show you inside the place. After a few emails or text messages, they will start asking for money. First, they’ll try to get a security deposit, then they’ll ask for the first month’s rent, and then another month’s rent in exchange for a discount. They can even try to rush you into a decision by saying that others are also interested in the property.

What you should know about finding authentic rental listings

  • Never ever give anyone money for an apartment you haven’t seen in-person. The rent being suspiciously low for the neighbourhood is another sign of a scam.
  • Go to the address, make sure the listing is truthful and accurate. If you are unable to go in person, use the Internet to see actual images of the rental.
  • Research the address to ensure it is not a duplicate post. You may even conduct a reverse image search to see if the photos were used elsewhere.
  • Schedule a showing and confirm that the landlord will be present.
  • If you plan on renting in a new development, contact the builder to confirm ownership.
  • Request a lease or contract. Review it thoroughly.

Tip: If you’re looking to find a long-term rental, read: 

Other miscellaneous scams

1. Texts or phone calls about undelivered packages

A fairly common newcomer scam in Canada, this one may present in different forms. You may get a text saying you owe customs duties on a package you ordered (or a package that someone has sent to you). The text will usually include a payment link, and will urge you to pay the duty so the delivery can be completed.

Alternatively, you may get a phone call from someone posing as a customs or police official claiming that you have sent or been sent a package containing illegal materials. The caller may threaten you with imprisonment or deportation, but may eventually ask you to a pay a fine via wire transfer, bitcoin, or gift cards.

What to do upon receiving a phone call or text about an undelivered package

  • If you have ordered the package in question, contact the seller or shipper to confirm whether any duties or taxes are due.
  • If you haven’t ordered this package or aren’t aware of any package being sent to you, contact Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or call toll-free: 1-888-495-8501 to report the fraud.
  • Do not transfer any money or bitcoins to people you don’t know.
  • Remember that police or customs officials will not call you to make threats and will not offer to “ease up” the punishment if you pay a fine.

2. Text messages or emails about winning prizes

You may get a phone or text message saying that you won a prize (cash, a cruise, or even a car), and in order to receive the winnings, you’re required to pay a small advance fee to cover taxes or legal fees associated with the win. 

What you should know about winning prizes

  • Legitimate prize or lottery companies will never demand payments before releasing winnings.
  • You cannot win foreign lotteries unless you’ve specifically been to that country and purchased a ticket.
  • Be suspicious if you are ever asked to pay taxes or fees to the CRA on lottery or sweepstakes winnings. You do not have to pay taxes or fees on these types of winnings. These requests are scams.

What should you do upon receiving a fake message about winning a prize

  • If you get a text message from an unknown number, and it directs you to a form that asks you to enter any personal information, delete the text. Do not enter any information.
  • If the text tells you to text “STOP” or “NO,” so you don’t get more texts, delete it. Do not reply. Scam artists do this to confirm they have a real phone number. 
  • Forward the texts to 7726 (SPAM on most keypads). This will let your phone provider block future texts from those numbers. 
  • If you think your text message is real, check that the link it is sending you to is the correct website.
  • If you’ve shared personal information, contact Equifax and TransUnion to place fraud alerts on your account.

Tip: There are many other types of scams out there. Read about them in The Little Black Book of Scams published by the government of Canada.

How to report telephone, internet, or email scams and fraud

If you or someone you know has been the target of a telephone, internet, email or other type of scam and gave personal or financial information by mistake, you should contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or call toll-free: 1-888-495-8501. 

As you settle in Canada, it is important to stay up-to-date on popular scams doing the rounds, so you’re able to identify fraudsters when they target you. Remember, if anything seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Being aware of the next steps you can take to protect yourself and familiarizing yourself with the scam/fraud reporting process in Canada will equip you to deal with the situation with calmness and composure.