BBB Announces National Top 10 Scams of 2016

Kitchener, ON – BBB’s across Canada have been working diligently to bring you the most prevalent scams that targeted Canadians in 2016. The nefarious list is an amalgamation of information gathered from BBB’s Scam Tracker website, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and concerns brought forward by sponsors and community partners.

The truth is, it’s not good news and the numbers don’t lie. Canadians lost more money in 2016 than the past two years. In fact, 50% more than in 2015. Last year, scammers took over 90 million out of the pockets of Canadians in a menagerie of ways from fake employment to online dating to misleading reviews.

There is some good news. Our number one scam from last year has been in decline. A call centre in India was raided and the dreaded Canada Revenue Agency Tax Scam dropped off dramatically. While the numbers for that scam remain down, it has not gone away entirely.

“The positive take away right now, is that there appears to be more reporting going on which would explain some of the increase in money lost,” says Danielle Primrose, President and CEO of BBB serving Mainland BC. “But at the end of the day it still only represents at most 5% of what was actually taken from Canadians. There is a lot more work to be done and a lot more awareness to be raised and a lot more reporting to do. Don’t be ashamed, let someone know if you’ve been scammed.”


The Top 10 Scams of 2016

1. Employment Scams
2. Online Dating Scams
3. Identity Fraud
4. Advance Fee Loans
5. Online Purchase Scams
6. Wire Fraud – Spearphishing
7. Binary Option Scams
8. Fake Lottery Winnings
9. Canada Revenue Agency Scams
10. Fake Online Endorsements


“BBB derived much of the information from our new web page, BBB Scam Tracker,” adds Primrose. “While we have focused on these ten scams, there have been nearly 50 thousand scams reported across North America since 2015.”

One of the key things people can do to prevent getting scammed is to regularly change their passwords to online accounts. With that in mind, BBB is launching its second annual ‘National BBB Password Day’ on March 15th, 2017. We hope to inspire and remind Canadians about the importance of protecting their online presence. #bbbpasswordday


Spot a business or offer that sounds like an illegal scheme or fraud? Tell us about it. Help us investigate and warn others by reporting what you know. Visit us at

BBB would like to thank the following sponsors for helping make the National Top 10 Scams campaign possible:

Global Payments Canada
Consumer Debtor Protection Canada
The Competition Bureau
The Bank of Canada
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Option Consommateurs
BC Securities Commission
Vancouver Police Department

For more information regarding BBB’s National Top 10 Scams Campaign, visit our website. 


Top 10 Scams in Detail

1. Employment Scam
$5.3 million lost

The most reported scam to BBB Scam Tracker. You likely didn’t apply, much less get an interview for a job you can do from home. It’s just a cheque cashing scheme that is simply too good to be true.

  • Do your research on any company before accepting a position
  • If you are asked to deposit a cheque and send money back, it’s not a real job 




2. Romance Scams
$17 million lost

Online dating is big business to scammers. Canadians give away a lot of money as they give away their hearts to Catphishers. Catphishing is when a fraudster fakes an identity and tricks someone via dating sites into a phony emotional or romantic relationship for financial gain.

  • Do not wire money to someone you’ve never met
  • If they are out of the country or can never meet in person, walk away




3. Identity Fraud
$11 million lost

Scammers steal your identity to secure credit cards, bank loans, and even rent property in your name. Even children are susceptible to identity fraud.

  • Never carry your SIN with you
  • Change your online passwords regularly




4. Advance Fee Loan
$1.1 million lost

Paying an up-front fee to get a loan is illegal in Canada and the US. These scammers prey on those who don’t qualify for loans through reputable lenders.

  • You are not required to pay a fee to receive a loan
  • Seek alternative finance options




5. Online Purchase Scams
$8.6 million lost

Scammers have new online avenues to take your money and trust. Counterfeit merchandise, goods that never show up, fake websites, and free trial traps are everywhere.

  • Shop on legitimate websites
  • Use third party payment portals such as PayPal




6. Wire Fraud – “Spearphishing”
$13 million lost

Spearphishing is a big problem for the business community. Millions are lost when scammers pose as company brass and demand money be wired to a fake company email.

  • Create payment redundancies in your organization
  • Be vigilant on any incoming emails




7. Binary Options Scam
$7.5 million lost (Investment Fraud)*

Big promises of low risk, high returns, and full refunds entices Canadians to take a chance. It’s really just an unregulated 50/50 bet and not investment at all. They delay any winnings…if you win at all.

  • Understand high risk is involved
  • Seek professional investment advice

*Source: Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre




8. Fake Lottery Winnings
$3 million lost

If you didn’t enter…you didn’t win. Calls come in at all hours telling you you’ve won a big US lottery! You just need to pay a tax or insurance fee before you get your millions. It’s way too good to be true.

  • You do not have to pay to receive lottery winnings
  • Contact the corporation directly




9. Canada Revenue Agency Scam
$4.3 million lost

Our number one scam in 2016. While this scam is still being reported, a crackdown on a call centre in India in 2016 has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of calls targeting Canadians.

  • The CRA does not make threatening phone calls
  • The CRA does not request information of the phone or by email




10. Fake Online Endorsements and Sponsored Content
Amount of Money Lost Unknown

Consumers are often enticed to purchase a product or service based on reviews by social media influencers. Unfortunately, theses reviews may not be genuine and the influencer may have been paid by a company to be used as a marketing tool.

  • Take everything you read online with a grain of salt
  • Seek other review sources and

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