Tag: canada

We’ve all gotten notifications of dips and increases in our utility bills when the seasons change, but getting a personal call from a utility company of overdue bills that we’re unaware of, that’s a definite notification most of us don’t expect.

The call may go a little something like this:

A scam that has been targeting utility customers for years, has most recently seen a 151.64% uptick since January in the U.S. and Canada.

Threatening to cut services within hours if payments are not made immediately, promising savings on electrical bills that obviously can’t be kept, and asking for payment with pre-paid debit or gift cards are all red flags that you’re being targeted by the utility scam.

Utilities United Against Scams Day
To fight back and raise awareness, over 80 gas, water and electric companies across the U.S. and Canada have teamed up for the first annual North American Utilities United Against Scams Day.

Kicking-off the campaign this past Wednesday, “this day is part of a week-long advocacy and awareness campaign focused on exposing the tactics scammers use to steal money from utility customers and on educating customers about how to protect themselves,” reports Forbes.

Protect Yourself
Scammers will find a way to trick us into giving out personal information or make unnecessary payments, and the only way we can prevent them is knowing how to protect ourselves and raising awareness.

Here are a few tips to help you from becoming a utility scammer’s next victim:
1. Utility companies will NOT demand payment – You may be contacted by utility companies through the mail and an occasional outbound call to discuss payment plans, but your local utility company will never demand payment, especially with a prepaid gift card.

2. NEVER give out your personal information – If you are not expecting a call, or have not verified that you are talking to an official representative from a utility company, make sure NOT to give out your personal or financial information if an unexpected caller makes the request.

3. Hang-up IMMEDIATELY – When you get a suspicious call, go with your gut feeling, hang-up, and call your local utility company to verify if you have any overdue bills you should be aware of.

4. SHARE your experience – If city officials and utility companies are not aware of the scams that are occurring, there is no way for them catch a scammer in the act. Understanding how criminals work is the first step to protecting yourself and others from becoming a victim.

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If scammers want to successfully scam, they better do a little more research before they choose their next victim. Hitting up our neighbors to the north, scammers are slipping as they mistakenly contact long-time Canadian residents with the immigration scam.

The objective is to scare victims into believing the status of their residency is at risk, but can be resolved at a cost. However, long-time residents, like Saskatoon woman, Theresa Aubin-Singh, knew something was fishy when she received a call from an agent of Immigration Canada.

Aubin-Singh told CBC News that she had been receiving a number of calls a few months ago from an unknown number. When she finally picked up one of the calls, the caller claimed to be an agent of Immigration Canada, her first RED FLAG!

They continued to tell her that they were calling in regards to her living in Canada illegally, and right then and there, she knew it was a scam!

“They’ve targeted the wrong person,” Aubin-Singh told CBC News. “I am not an immigrant. I’ve lived here my entire life. I was born at St. Paul’s Hospital.”

Fortunately, this dumb mistake is allowing Canadian residents, like Aubin-Singh, to warn their fellow Canadians of this vicious scam. However, individuals who are waiting for residency are more vulnerable and may fall victim to this scam.

The Government of Canada has stepped in by warning citizens and those waiting for residency or visas with the following:

“Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) does not telephone individuals for the purpose of collecting money, or a payment, via telephone. While CIC may occasionally contact clients via telephone in order to collect additional information to continue processing an application or with regard to requesting additional documentation, CIC will NEVER ask clients for any sort of payment via the telephone. In addition, CIC does not ask clients to confirm basic personal information that has already been provided on an application form (i.e. date of birth, passport number, etc).”

In case you’re still waiting on the status of your residency or visa, here are a few tips that will help prevent you from becoming an immigration scammer’s next victim:

•Immigration representatives are not necessary when applying for a visa or Canadian citizenship. They have no special connections with Canadian government officials and cannot guarantee visas.
•Visas are only issued by authorized Canadian embassies, high commissions and consulates.
•You will never be asked to wire money or deposit funds into a personal bank account by Canadian visa offices.
•Free application forms and guides for any type of visa can be found at CIC’s official website.

If you have fallen victim or feel like you’ve been targeted by the Canadian immigration scam, please report your incident to your local police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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