The season for scams

’Tis the season to be jolly, but don’t fall victim to holiday follies.

With just three weeks left until Christmas, beware of the cybercrooks who steal your hard-earned money.

In the last two months alone, 72 complaints of online loan scams have been filed, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre told the Sun.

Last December, there were 114 reports, and during this time of year, it isn’t just helpless seniors falling for the bait.

People who are desperate for Christmas spending money and can’t get a bank loan turn to the Internet looking for $2,000-$3,000 on average.

It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to get them through the holidays.

The loan-seekers borrow a few hundred from a friend or family member, and wire money to the loan company in order to get a few thousand dollars in exchange.

But they don’t get anything — and on top of being broke, they end up owing a friend money.

Ottawa police said they don’t notice a spike in fraud around the holiday season, but they do see more theft.

“Quite often the Salvation Army kettles are manned by elderly people, who are very easy targets,” said Const. Katherine Larouche.

Another seasonal trend is more home break-ins, where thieves take off with presents from under the tree.

If your gifts aren’t stolen, your identity might be. Look out for e-mails from banks, retailers, online greeting cards and even delivery verification requests from courier services, all phishing for your personal information.

Charity phishing scams are big in December.

“If someone sends an unsolicited e-mail from a company you’re familiar with, you should check (with the company),” said Diane Iadeluca, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Ottawa.

Updating your computer with spam filters is a good idea, and so is using common sense.

“Unknown links, don’t click on those at all,” said Iadeluca.

People who regularly shop or bank online and have credit card information stored on websites should be careful, she said. Iadeluca suggests using a credit card so there’s legal recourse to contest unauthorized charges on your bill, and recommends getting one with a small limit.

“You’re less liable for less loss,” she said.

Credit and debit card fraud-related offences total between $10 billion and $30 billion in Canada each year, according to the RCMP’s commercial crime branch, and almost 80% of those offences are executed by organized crime.

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