Top Ten Scams

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There’s always a new twist on an old con or a new scam ready to catch people who are vulnerable and caught unaware.

However, one of the best ways to avoid a trap is to know how to spot it. To keep people in the know, many organizations like Scambusters, the Better Business Bureau and Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Center track the most commonly reported scams facing consumers. While everyone’s list is a little different depending on demographics and how schemes are classified, it’s not hard to spot the common tactics and perennial problems.

While this list includes the most common scams of 2010, the list of culprits is far longer. Investment scams and vacation scams are also increasingly popular, not to mention mortgage scams, “sweetheart” scams, business listings scams and social media scams.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid scams is to be aware of the tricks and cons. Experts advise the best thing you can do is to say no and dodge those “too good to be true” offers, no matter how high the pressure. Avoid giving money to anyone you don’t know no matter how they approach you — at least until you’ve done your research first.

Want to stay ahead of the crooks? Watch out for these common scams that targeted North Americans last year.

Fraudulent services. The most commonly-reported scam in Canada, they can include any misleading offer or promotion of services, from medical supplies and insurance to extended warranties and long distance phone plans. It could be a contractor who requests a large down payment and never completes the work, an energy contract that’s too good to be true or an offer to lower your interest rate. High pressure tactics keep you from looking too closely at the deal.

Prize/lottery scams. You receive notice that you’ve won a prize — but there’s a catch. First you have to send cash in order to claim your money, free trip or fabulous prize. Alternatively, you could be asked to pay the taxes on the prize or make a purchase. Either way, the winnings never arrive. These scams aren’t new, but they are branching out. Many sweepstakes scams start with an entry box at the mall or an entry form in the mail. Not only do Scammers now have your personal information they’ve also got more credibility when they call you up.

Sales or merchandise scams. Buyer and seller beware: If fake e-commerce sites and online auction scams weren’t enough to contend with, scammers are happy to play both sides of this equation. As a buyer, you could end up paying for less than you bargained… that is, if you receive an item at all. As a seller, you could face fraud and theft — or be lured by a predator through a classified ad. The latest versions of these scams offer the latest tech toys and sought-after items, so it pays to avoid the “too good to be true” offers.