Fraudsters are impersonating Canada Revenue Agency officers to target Lower Mainland residents with a new phone scam that keys on income tax season.It's not on the list of top 10 scams for 2014 announced Friday by the Better Business Bureau because reports have just begun to surface about the unlikely sounding fraud.Scammers who claim to be federal revenue agents accuse victims of owing back taxes and warn a warrant for their arrest will be issued if they don't pay up pronto."They're quite threatening and they're quite aggressive," Vancouver Police Det.-Const. Linda Grange said.
Victims are persuaded to buy gift cards in amounts of up to $2,500 from major retailers and phone back with the activation codes. In two recent cases, the cards were for Home Depot and Safeway. Other victims sent money orders."They're very convincing," Grange said. "You panic and you think there's a warrant and all of a sudden you're running off to the store to get a gift card."
The scam may become "quite prevalent" as the deadline to file income tax returns nears, she said.Grange said the VPD also continues to field large numbers of complaints about fraudulent ticket selling through online sites."If you're going to buy a ticket on Craigslist or Kijiji or any other website there's a huge, huge chance it's fraud," she said, estimating over half of tickets advertised on the two big free classifieds sites are bogus.
"You're not going to get to the concert or event. You're going to lose your money. It's rampant."Some sellers purport to have a receipt for the tickets, giving an impression of legitimacy, but the receipt is usually a fake as well.
Grange said some perpetrators caught recently by investigators turned out to be young kids who were even more convincing because they talked about having to get home to do homework.
"They make you trust them, but you can't trust them because they're taking up to $1,000, putting it in their pocket and they walk off."
She recommends using only authorized sellers.
Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C. president and CEO Danielle Primrose said one of the top 10 scams highlighted for this year targets Instagram users.
Scammers post images on the photo-sharing app of tempting prize giveaways, purportedly from big brands and retailers.
But the images link to other websites that try to get credit card information and Instagram users end up helping the scam by widely sharing in order to qualify for the fake contest.
Primrose said spammers are also increasingly using fake or real gossip about celebrities like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus to get social media users to spread bogus content, which sometimes takes victims to sites that install malware on their computers.
Other scams on this year's top 10 list include romance scams by phoney beaus on online dating websites, as well long-running problems like curbers – unlicensed car dealers selling lemons from parking lots – or lottery mail scams.
Many people also continue to fall for "enterprise fee scams" where they're persuaded they must make an upfront fee payment to unlock a larger sum of money."Do you really need to pay money to win money? Absolutely not," cautioned Manjit Bains of Consumer Protection B.C.
See below for the BBB's full list of 2014 top scams or see the list and additional information at mbc.bbb.org/top-ten-scams. For avoiding investment or tax scams, see the B.C. Security Commission's investright.org site or the CRA's security tips at www.cra.gc.ca/security.
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