Phone scams target B.C. residents, warns Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning of phone calls that are fraudulently claiming to be from legitimate businesses, but are in fact scams meant to steal credit card numbers and other sensitive personal information.

“People should think twice when giving out any information over the phone – even if the name sounds legitimate,” says Lynda Pasacreta, BBB President and CEO. “Scammers often use familiar or well-established names in order to gain trust, which poses a real danger to the public.”

BBB has received reports from the public recently about unsolicited phone calls from companies such as Safeway, Air Miles, Microsoft and West Jet. Most of these fraudulent phone calls begin the same way: an automated or live caller contacts the person, referencing membership points and a prize, including bonus points, extra miles or a vacation. The caller then asks the person to provide their credit card information for verification. These companies have advised that they do not make unsolicited calls in which they request personal or financial information.

In the case of the alleged caller from Microsoft, they claim to be phoning about a serious problem with the person’s computer. The caller warns that if the problem is not solved, the computer will become unusable. In order to “fix” it, the computer owner is directed to a website and told to download a program, plus pay a fee for a subscription to this preventative service.

The catch: there was never anything wrong with the computer, the caller is not working for Microsoft, and the owner has downloaded to their computer damaging malware and spyware.

BBB advises the public that these phony phone calls are common, and people should:

Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism. Check with the organization directly that the caller is claiming to be from, using the contact numbers found on their website.

Do not provide any personal information. Many of these scam calls are an attempt to steal your identity, not just your money. Don’t provide personal information over the telephone.

Never provide credit or debit card information for payment. You may be able to reverse charges made through your credit card, but you’ve given enough information for fraudsters to use your account for other transactions. And debit purchases are difficult to reverse.

Report any fraudulent activity, especially if you’ve been a victim. Consumers should report any fraudulent activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1 (888) 495-8501 or www.antifraudcentre.ca.