August 01, 2021

Stealing a PIN code is as easy as 1234

You work hard for your money.

So why put your finances at risk with a personal identification number (PIN) that's as easy as 1234?

A study by DataGenetics revealed that people are opening themselves up to identity theft and financial fraud by selecting four-digit PINs that are easy to crack.

When thinking of a four-digit password, many people opt for something that is simple and easy to remember such as a child's birth date, an anniversary or the year they were born.

However, there are over 10,000 possible combinations the digits 0 to 9 can be arranged to create a four-digit PIN code, according to the research.

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July 11, 2021

Do 'rent to own' housing deals actually work out?

If you've been in the U.S. over the last couple of years, you've seen the signs, generally at large intersections: “Rent To Own! No Financing Necessary! Call Now!”

They're touted as a good deal for owners who have trouble selling and buyers who can't get conventional financing.

In most cases, the seller gives the tenant the right to buy the house at some point in the future, usually one to three years out, for a price that's agreed upon today, plus a fee that will keep the option of buying open.

Tenants are also typically required to put down a deposit towards the final sale price which will be held by the homeowner as credit towards the price of the home at the end of the lease option.

While these offerings are nowhere near as common on this side of the border, several small Canadian companies have been using a similar pitch to entice prospective homebuyers into the market as well as targetting cash-strapped homeowners looking to get out from under. 

And for many people, things haven't been working out that well. When one B.C. couple tried the rent-to-own route last year, the deal fell apart early. The so-called prospective buyer ended up squatting in their property.

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May 09, 2021

Borrowing against pensions puts retirees at risk

To retirees, the offers can sound like the answer to every money worry: convert tomorrow’s pension cheques into today’s hard cash through so-called pension advances -- a cash-strapped retiree's answer to a pay day loan. 

But programs like these are having devastating financial consequences for a growing number of older Americans, threatening their retirement savings and actually plunging them further into debt, the New York Times reports.

The advances, federal and state authorities say, are not advances at all, but actually carefully disguised loans that require borrowers to sign over all or part of their monthly pension cheques.

And while not yet widespread in Canada, critics worry that the practice might soon migrate across the border.

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April 08, 2021

Celebrity names increasingly powerful lures for scammers: report

Just like the music charts, celebrity names pop in and out of favour. Scammers know this, which is why they use the top names as lures for malware scams and identity theft.

Famous names are used for a whole host of tricks, from people actually posing as celebrities to bogus endorsements of products and events, says Scambusters.  

One of the most prevasive stunts is to use the name of a well-known figure in emails or messages on social media like Facebook and Twitter to lure victims into clicking an attachment or a link that downloads malware onto their PCs.

However, it turns out that not all celebs are equal when it comes to the popularity of their names as bait for click tricking. And, like celebrity status itself, the names change over time.

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March 22, 2022

Don't fall prey to tax season scams

Ca_tax_scams_guideIn 1789, the year before his death, Benjamin Franklin wrote: "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

If ol' Ben was alive today, he might modify his suggestion to: "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes and scams during tax season."

That's because a new survey by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada) found that one in five Canadians -- 20 per cent -- are exposed to tax season scams.

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March 20, 2022

Beware of testimonial and subscription scams

If it sounds too good to be true -- it probably is.

The Competition Bureau wants consumers to be aware of scams as part of its 2 Good 2 Be True campaign during Fraud Prevention Month in March.

Among the various scams out there, the Competition Bureau wants consumers to recognize false online testimonials and subscription traps on mobile devices.

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March 05, 2022

Sharing isn't always a good thing

Remember when you were little how you were always taught that it's good to share?

Oh sure, it's always polite to share your toys or cookies.

But as we get older we are now finding out that it may not be such a good thing -- especially when it comes to sharing our personal and financial information on the Internet.

A recent study by Visa Canada revealed that many Canadians are in fact "oversharing" their financial information over their computers and cellphones which could put them at a greater risk for fraud.

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February 04, 2022

Mystery shopping scam still alive and spreading

With so many Canadians looking for work, it's not surprising scam artists are targeting people desperate to earn money through part-time work, such as mystery shopping.

The pitch starts out sounding legitimate, particularly to someone who's already struggling and may not be thinking that straight.

You answer an email or Kijiji post looking for part-time work. The scammer tells you that they're looking for mystery shoppers who can shop on their own time and earn a fee at the same time.

To get the ball rolling, the company will send you a cheque for as much as $4,000 to buy the items you need to purchase to appropriately rate the retail outlet, most likely a bank or payday loan service. 

The con artist's excuse for sending so much money is that they want you to take your fee out of the cheque. They then want you to wire the balance back to them so they can monitor things from their end.

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January 15, 2022

Is 'buy and return' smart shopping? Or is it simply theft?

After enjoying a decent holiday shopping, North American retailers are once again another headache: merchandise returns and the con games that accompany them.

SaleAccording to a National Retail Federation survey, return fraud cost merchants an estimated $8.9 billion in 2012, with nearly 30% coming during the holiday season. Overall, the survey shows that something like 4.6% of holiday returns are fraudulent.

Virtually every retailer (97%) reported being stung by crooks who collected refunds for stolen items, and almost half (47%) said they’d received fake receipts.

Equally common is the practice of "renting'' electronics for a few days or wearing an item for a special occasion then returning it — a practice called "wardrobing.'' Nearly two-thirds (65%) claim they've been stung this way within the last year.

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November 28, 2021

Have you ever been hit by fraudsters?

It's no secret that senior citizens are often the targets of fraud and financial crimes.

Among the reasons: Some older people have built substantial assets (including their own home/cottage and large savings accounts), they're easy to find at home, and they can often be swayed by fears of losing their financial independence.

Estimates from MetLife's Mature Market Institute suggest that this group loses approximately $2.6 billion per year due to financial abuse -- fraud, as well as theft by family members and acquaintances.

Although it's widely believed to be underreported, a 2009 study by MetLife's Mature Market Institute estimates that seniors lose approximately $2.6 billion per year due to financial abuse -- fraud, as well as theft by family members and acquaintances.

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But it seems that seniors aren't the only group getting fleeced.

With a generally low level of investment knowledge, Canadians of all ages remain popular targets for fraudsters, according to the The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) which just released the third edition of its survey of investment knowledge, investor behaviour and incidence of investment fraud. 

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...