Pretend web sites for actual corporations are scamming Canadian customers and companies

Avoiding on-line scams is nothing new for a lot of Canadians, however corporations and anti-fraud professionals are warning customers to look at for pretend listings on serps that attempt to redirect folks to fraudulent variations of acquainted corporations and types.

These listings pose as present companies and contain new search outcomes popping up, both directing customers to a pretend web site that appears much like the true factor, or offering telephone numbers that do not truly result in the corporate in query.

Calgarian Reza Bacchus bumped into this problem when attempting to seek for a brand new cowboy hat — particularly, a Stetson.

“I got here throughout this web site … so I simply clicked and bought it, straightforward,” he mentioned.

LISTEN | No Stetson, No Hat, No Canada — copycat web sites dupe customers: 

Price of Residing7:32Pretend web sites that look actual


Bacchus had been trying to find shops that carry Stetson hats as a result of he mentioned they have restricted availability in Canada. He had beforehand been unable to purchase from the principle Stetson web site because it didn’t ship to Canada.

Calgary resident Reza Bacchus finally acquired his Stetson hat by flying to Vancouver and shopping for it in a retailer. (Reza Bacchus)

Bacchus’ preliminary shock at a Canadian web site ought to have been a crimson flag. The web site was a pretend duplicate. He by no means obtained his hat regardless of spending about $100 US. After a month of ready, customer support from the true Stetson firm confirmed he was scammed.

“I acquired a disappointing however a pleasant electronic mail [from]… they’d obtained emails regarding this unauthorized web site,” defined Bacchus, who finally travelled to Vancouver to purchase a Stetson hat at one of many few brick and mortar shops to hold them in Canada.

As for the cash, he filed a chargeback declare along with his bank card firm and obtained his funds again after a number of months.

It is tough to find out precisely what number of Canadians are affected by this particular rip-off, or how a lot cash is misplaced. Based on the RCMP, solely 5 to 10 per cent of fraud circumstances are reported in Canada. In 2023, these studies accounted for $567 million in losses, however that might embrace every part from immigration fraud to cryptocurrency scams. 

Reported fraud of all sorts has elevated by $187 million since 2021 — and that is with solely a small minority of circumstances truly reported or tracked.

Journey agent Flight Centre faces dupe telephone numbers

An identical downside is hitting clients of the journey agent chain Flight Centre.

“There’s loads of toll free numbers listed on Google proper now,” mentioned govt vice-president Chadd Andre, who defined that when clients are trying to find Flight Centre telephone numbers in numerous cities, reminiscent of “Flight Centre Scarborough” they’re seeing enterprise listings that comprise pretend telephone numbers.

These telephone numbers don’t put a caller by way of to a legit department of Flight Centre, however an unknown name centre.

CBC Information known as a number of of the listed numbers and was unable to get anybody to establish themselves or their areas.

A screenshot of a Google map listing with a fraudulent phone number greyed out.
CBC Information discovered a number of pretend listings for ‘Flight Centre Calgary’ or ‘Flight Centre Vancouver’ that pointed to incorrect telephone numbers. The quantity has been hidden because it results in a fraudulent name centre. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

“We have discovered that [the calls] find yourself in a few completely different name centres, and the second that you just press for any kind of identification or attempt to establish the place they’re or who they’re, they dangle up the telephone and get all flustered,” mentioned Andre.

The state of affairs led to a very long time Flight Centre consumer in British Columbia dropping greater than $2,000 after calling one of many pretend listings; he was unable to get better these funds as he paid with an uninsured debit card.

Based on Andre, most of the duplicate listings are taken down as quickly as they’re caught, however there’s a important price by way of human assets for his firm to monitor for impostors.

A man and a woman smile while seated at a cafe table.
B.C. resident Ihsan Abdul Salam misplaced greater than $2,000 after calling a fraudulent itemizing for Flight Centre to guide a flight to Sao Paolo. (Handout by Ihsan Abdul Salam/The Canadian Press)

“It is a fixed endeavour. Our authorized staff from a number of angles has been concerned, to work with Google and to ship stop and desist letters the place there’s been factors of contact,” mentioned Andre, who identified that serps and on-line suppliers are fast to take away the offending hyperlinks however new ones pop up rapidly.

Greatest prevention is consciousness, say anti-fraud specialists

Based on cyber-security analyst and Toronto-based lawyer Ritesh Kotak, the issue of duplicate, impostor companies is rising.

“I cope with native companies on a regular basis that decision me up and say that there’s a web site attempting to mimic them,” mentioned Kotak, who added that it is onerous to forestall these frauds from occurring prematurely.

A balding man wearing a grey blazer over a white collared shirt looks directly at the camera with a slight smile on his face. There are two computer monitors in soft focus in the background.
Cyber safety analyst and lawyer Ritesh Kotak says companies usually name him, involved about fraudulent impersonation. (Keith Whelan/CBC)

“The one factor you may actually do is, when you come throughout these websites then report,” mentioned Kotak, who identified that each customers and companies can report fraudulent web sites and listings to serps or fee processing corporations. 

Kotak speculated that the proceeds of fraud like these pretend listings goes to “fund illicit actions all over the world.”

The federal authorities additionally has assets to report and test for potential fraudulent exercise.

“Should you assume you’ve got been scammed otherwise you’re on a malicious web site, report that to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre,” defined Melanie Anderson with the Canadian Centre for Cyber Safety, a authorities company in Ottawa.

A hot pink graphic says "Real examples of fake online stores"
The federal authorities presents assets on to look at for fraudulent companies on-line. (Screenshot/Authorities of Canada)

“As we see issues and establish them as confirmed malicious, then we’re in a position to take these down,” she added.

Anderson pointed to the federal authorities’s Get Cyber Secure web site as a supply for recommendations on the right way to spot pretend on-line shops.

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