Scammers and malware are out there and sometimes are difficult to detect and avoid until it’s too late. What if it happens to you? What can you do to protect yourself? What can you do if you fall victim?
How it Happens
You’re on your smartphone, casually browsing Facebook, getting caught up on what your friends and family have been up to, coming across the occasional targeted advertisement when suddenly a screen pops up from your local internet service provider asking you to fill out a quick customer survey. No problem, you figure, you’re happy with the service and don’t mind complying. After the survey, where you have provided your name, email address, street address, and phone number, you are told that you will receive a reward for your time, and you have a choice of three products, all skincare products. You select one, why not, it’s free. But wait, now there is a small shipping fee and they will need your credit card info. Hmmm, you are hesitant here, it’s only $4. When you decide to back out of this, you realize you can close this window. The only way to move forward is to continue filling out the requested info. And since they are only charging $4, many will comply. You feel a little uncomfortable and decide to call your internet service provider. They confirm that they are not participating in an online customer survey. You realize that you have been scammed!
How it Works
The customer survey scam is only one type of online scheme that seems to be linked to companies like Costco and celebrities like Oprah. They will also entice you with free trial offers and bogus endorsements.
Once you have agreed to receive the free skincare product, the company will continue to send you products and bill your credit card the full amount each time. You unknowingly have agreed to a subscription. It becomes increasingly difficult to discontinue ongoing shipments and cancel this subscription. The only way to do so is to call the company. You’ll find that the company has dozens of phone numbers and email addresses that are changing all the time and it becomes difficult to reach anyone.
How to Avoid Being Tricked
- By using PayPal instead of a credit card to pay for online purchases, you avoid giving out your credit card information online.
- Beware of claims such as “Free” or “Risk Free Trial”.
- Make sure you check any product online for any negative reviews.
- Make sure you read the term and conditions.
- Always check your statements for any recurring charges.
What Can You Do if You Have Been Scammed?
When you notice any charges on your credit card, call the company immediately to cancel your subscription and get reimbursed. Be persistent, as these companies go by several different names and provide several phone numbers.
You should also report your experiences to the RCMP’s Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the Competition Bureau, and/or your local Better Business Bureau.