The Better Business Bureau has released its list of the top scams reported in Canada in 2022, and home improvement scams have moved to the top of the list.
Reports of home improvement scams by Canadians increased by 51.2 per cent last year. People also lost more money to this scam type, with a median dollar loss of $1,900, up 187.4 per cent from $661 in 2021.
“Home improvement scams rose from the #4 riskiest scam type reported by Canadians in 2021 to #1 in 2022,” says Simone Lis, President and CEO of BBB serving Mainland BC and the Yukon Territory.
“This scam type is often perpetrated by door-to-door solicitors who offer quick, low-cost repairs. They take payment and never return to do the work. In some variations, they do shoddy work, don’t finish the job, or dramatically increase the price after the original agreement.”
To avoid home improvement scams, say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, any deal that involves high upfront payments, and handshake deals made without a contract. Work with businesses that have proper identification, licensing, and insurance, and ask for references, then make sure to check them out.
Cryptocurrency scams, which were the #1 riskiest in 2021, fell to the #2 riskiest scam type in 2022 due to a slight decrease in susceptibility and median dollar loss. Advance fee loan scams dropped from #2 riskiest in 2021 to #3 riskiest in 2022. Employment scams rose to #5 on this year’s list, up from #7 riskiest in 2021.
Donna Stark, a Burnaby resident, was swindled out of $16,000 in an elaborate cryptocurrency scam in 2022.
“The salesperson only left [stopped calling and emailing] once he took out every penny from my credit card and my chequing account,” said Stark in her BBB Scam Tracker report. “Then his partner phoned me […] to say the market crashed and I lost all my money. I knew that this was not true and the whole thing was a scam, and that they got what they wanted from me. There was no one to phone as they used burner phones and I wrote but they never responded.”
Three of the top 10 riskiest scams of 2022 did not make the list in 2021: investment scams (#4), rental scams (#7), and travel/vacation/timeshare scams (#9). Investment scams had the highest median dollar loss ($5,500) of all scam types reported by Canadians.
The overall median dollar loss from all scams reported by Canadians in 2022 was $300, a 20 per cent increase from the 2021 median dollar loss of $250.
Nearly one-third of all Canadian scam reports involved online purchase scams, with 76.7 per cent of those reporting them noting that the scam had cost them money. Be cautious when dealing with someone online, and never send money to someone you have not met face-to-face. Don’t buy online unless the transaction is secure, and avoid making quick purchases while browsing social media. Many of the ads that pop up offer great deals, but many customers either never receive their order, get shoddy products, or find they’ve purchased a counterfeit.
While many people have an image of older Canadians being the group most likely to fall victim to a scam, the BBB says that in 2022 people aged 35-44 reported the highest median dollar loss ($500) and the biggest increase in median dollar loss, up from $250 in 2021. The report also noted that in 2022, people aged 35-44 reported higher susceptibility to scams (57.2 per cent) than other age groups
Consistent with previous reports, more Canadian women (63.5 per cent) reported scams to BBB Scam Tracker than men (36.5 per cent). Although the median dollar loss reported by both men and women increased in 2022, the median dollar loss reported by men ($453) was substantially higher than by women ($249).
While the financial impact of falling victim to a scam can be significant, a number of non-financial impacts were also noted in the report. Among the findings were that 47.5 per cent of the respondents reported losing confidence or peace of mind after being targeted by a scam.
The report also showed that falling victim to a scam once does not necessarily prevent it from happening again. Just over eight per cent of survey respondents reported losing money to a scam at least three times, while 23.5 per cent reported losing money two or more times.
People who reported losing money three or more times were more likely to say that they panic during stressful situations, felt financial stress during the past year, and are isolated (live alone or have fewer friends), compared to those who reported losing money two or fewer times.
It is estimated that only five to 10 per cent of people who are victims of a scam report the case.
Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of cybercrime or any fraud should report it to their local police, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s online reporting system, and the BBB Scam Tracker at www.BBB.org/scamtracker.