With the holidays approaching, Canadians should be wary of fraudsters who may be looking to dampen both wallets and festive spirits, the government says.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is reminding residents to be on the lookout for popular scams when making donations, shopping online and purchasing goods this season.
To keep yourself from becoming one of them, the agency has shared details about some of the top tactics scammers are using to get money and personal information from Canadians.
Here are six of the top holiday scams people should watch out for this season.
"Counterfeiters can easily create websites that look like legitimate manufacturers and offer products at a huge discount," the CAFC says.
In the rush to buy last-minute gifts and secure deals on Boxing Day, it can be easy to miss the signs of an illegitimate business.
Canadians can protect themselves by thoroughly researching websites before buying products from them and can look for red flags like prices that are too good to be true, overly complicated payment processes and poorly-designed sites.
It's also a good idea to search for reviews or warnings online about a product or website before making a purchase.
Many Canadians may want to make a donation to charity over the holidays, and fraudsters take advantage of this, the CAFC says.
The agency says that scammers will use the names of legitimate charities to fool customers and take their money.
To avoid falling victim to this scam, those looking to make a contribution should confirm that the charity they're donating to is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency before providing any financial information.
Secret Santa scam
Canadians are being warned about Secret Santa scams circulating online that entice participants by promising that they will receive multiple gifts in return for only sending one gift.
An example of such a scam made the rounds on Facebook in 2017 like a chain letter, telling participants they would receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending a $10 gift, according to a Global News report.
The "secret sister" gift exchange asked participants to tag six of their closest friends and post their home address in the comments.
The details of scams like this may vary, but the gist is the same. According to the CAFC, the exchange collects some of your personal information and also hides a pyramid scheme, which is illegal in Canada.
Many Canadians will likely be buying more gift cards at this time than at any other during the year, but the CAFC warns that gift cards are involved in popular scam tactics.
"They should [...] be considered like cash; once they are exchanged, it is unlikely that you are getting your money back," it says.
Canadians should also be on the lookout for businesses requesting gift cards, especially with a time pressure, the CAFC says.
Recently, Canadians were also warned to be on the lookout for tampered gift cards with fake barcodes, a scam in which fraudsters take empty gift cards home from the store and put their own barcodes over the code.
The barcode is usually left slightly raised, which you can feel when you run your finger along it.
Amid the hustle and bustle of the season, residents will want to take extra care to protect their identity, and there are easy ways you can avoid falling victim to identity theft.
Canadians should be sure to keep their wallet or purse on their person at all times and cover their pin when making transactions.
It's also a good idea to avoid sharing passwords or providing any personal information to organizations or businesses on impulse without doing any research.
You can also protect your personal data by avoiding saving credit card information on browsers and using cellular data, rather than public or personal Wi-Fi networks, to make purchases.
Common prize notification scams can involve an email, letter or call with the message that a person has won a prize and needs to pay a fee to claim it.
The CAFC warns that these tactics are often used to obtain personal information and money from susceptible Canadians.
In general, it's a good idea around this time of year to be wary about giving out your personal info and doing your research when shopping online.
If you do fall victim to fraud, the CAFC says you should contact your bank or financial institution and report the incident. You should also report it to your local police and get a file number for future reference.
Finally, you can report the incident by contacting the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or by using the Fraud Reporting System.
Stay safe and happy holidays!
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.