Author Archive

Back to School Scams to Watch Out For

With the beginning of the school year right around the corner, students are facing many transitions. Many will be looking for a part time job that will be flexible enough to hold through the rigors of exam writing, and many post-secondary students are seeking affordable housing close to campus. The urgency of the situation can make you an easy target for those looking to victimize. Here are some tips from our resident fraud experts on how to avoid falling for fraud when you are heading back to school.

Avoiding back to school scams

Securing a Back to School Job
For most students in college or university (or who aspire to go), securing an income source is a big part of what will enable the budget to balance. Finding a job close to campus with flexible hours is a popular way to add some cash flow during the year. Working in retail, finding work in hospitality, babysitting on the side, or cleaning houses for money are all options that can supplement incomes part time that work with student schedules. Here is how to stay safe while looking for work:

Guard your personal information until you know who you are dealing with. Sending a resume to a legitimate company is no problem, but avoid sending out a resume with all your contact details and address to every ad you see. When dealing with anonymous ads, have a version of your resume that doesn’t give too much about yourself away. Wait until you get a reply from someone with a company name (if applicable) before sharing your contact details. Never share your social insurance number online.

Know the average wages for the field. Job scams generally will advertise a wage that is much higher than average for positions that don’t require much (if at all) in the way of specialized skills or training. Drivers, assistants, data entry, and secret shoppers are especially popular targets for fraud. Frequently, scam artists will post ads for positions at much higher pay than average, and will be in a rush to hire without an interview.

Never pay for a job. If the “job” involves start up costs, refunding “over paid” cheques, wiring money, or anything else that involves you sending or spending money, stay away! A real job will pay you, and won’t make you foot the bill for your own training or pay up front for a uniform or kit.

Check out more job ad red flags, or learn how students can improve their resume for more information on getting a part time position.

Finding Student Accommodations
With over 2 million unique monthly visitors, the Real Estate category on Kijiji has become an immensely popular destination for those seeking short-term or long-term rentals. It can be very difficult to secure accommodations in a new city, but don’t let panic get the best of you and allow yourself to be victimized by a fraudulent landlord. Here are some tips to ensure that moving day doesn’t end in tears:

Only deal with local landlords. The majority of scam artists operate out of foreign countries. The poster behind the ad might say they’re out of the country indefinitely, or that they won’t return until after you would need to agree to the rental (and pay up).

Never wire funds. As a prospective tenant, you should never be expected to send money in advance without having met the landlord or seen the rental unit. It’s crucial to physically visit any place you’re considering renting, rather than relying on scanned photos or website links – even if the apartment is real, there can be major shortcomings that are not clear without checking out the space.

Be skeptical of especially low rental prices. Check rental rates in the same area. Often, fraudsters will try to entice their victims with low prices. If the apartment you are looking at seems to have no flaws but is considerably under the median asking price for apartments of a similar size nearby, be on the alert, as it could be fraud.

Never share personal financial information. Some may be tricked by deceptive offers into sharing social insurance information, credit card and bank account numbers. Personal information can then be used by scam artists to open new bank or credit card accounts in your name. Legitimate landlords don’t need any of this information to do a credit check.

Trust your instincts. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable or strange, the circumstances are more than likely too good to be true. Go with your gut and steer clear.

Check out more tips on identifying real estate rental fraud, how to land an apartment when vacancies are low, and how to budget for your first apartment for more information on student housing.

Guide to Buying Car Seats for Your Baby

For parents to be, one of the most stressful parts of your new life happens before your baby even arrives. The amount of research you need to do, as well as the money and time that goes into figuring out the hundreds of things you’re going to need to prepare for your new little bundle of joy is enough to overwhelm anyone.

As we’ve all been told, babies go through things quickly and they grow out of them even quicker. For this reason, a lot of new parents opt towards purchasing some gently used items for their baby, especially the bigger-ticket, more expensive things your baby needs. Of the many baby essentials you’ll have to have, one of the more complicated items is the baby seat. Seems simple enough- get a car seat, put it in the back, stick the baby in until it’s old enough to wear a seatbelt – not too difficult, right?

What some new parents may not know is that not all car seats were created equal. If you’re thinking about purchasing a used car seat, you have to be up to date on the new requirements that were put in place as of January, 2012. It is illegal to buy, sell, trade, or give away a car or booster seat that does not comply with the new regulations. Anyone who does could be held liable in civil court. Kijiji does not allow ads for car seats manufactured prior to January 1, 2012 as many of them do not comply with the new regulations.

Buying a Safe Car Seat

From the Ministry of Transportation website:
The major changes incorporated in the new Canadian regulations include:
• a lap/shoulder seat belt testing requirement for all types of car seats;
• changes to child seats’ dynamic testing to adopt most of the U.S. testing parameters;
• changing the definition of an infant from up to 9 kg, to up to 10 kg;
• increase in the maximum allowable weight limit of child seats from 22 kg to 30 kg;
• introduction of dynamic testing requirements for booster seats;
• extending the limitation on rebound to all rear facing child seats; and
• the allowance of harnesses to be certified for usage on school buses for special needs children.
New car seats you’re purchasing from a store now should all be in compliance, but don’t assume anything- always look for the National Safety Mark for assurance that you’ve indeed purchased a valid, safe car seat.

This goes for buying a used car seat as well – if the car seat was manufactured after January 2012, look for the National Safety Mark. It may sound scary and it may seem better to buy new from a store, but for some parents to be, money can be tight and these new laws shouldn’t intimidate you away from buying baby items off classifieds. When you’re going through the ads, make sure the seller has included the following information:

• the date which the product was manufactured
• the serial number and model number of the car seat
• a picture of the NSM/information label of the car seat

If you have any doubts still, you can always reach out directly to the manufacturer to ask questions before you make your purchase.
At the end of the day, these new rules and regulations are put in place to keep your new baby safe and to give you a little peace of mind too. New parents have enough things to worry about, the safety of your child in your vehicle shouldn’t be one of them.

Avoiding Contractor, Moving, and Other Service Scams

Whether you find a service off Kijiji or elsewhere, it is important to vet the quality of the work they do before you hire them. The costs of being defrauded by a fraudulent contractor or moving company can get quite high. Here are a few tips to ensure you are getting what you paid for.

Finding the right person: Avoiding moving and contractor scams

Search the company or individual’s name and see what comes up. Read review from other customers and request a list of references they have worked for before. Past customers are the best source of information on the quality of work.

Ask for recommendations. If a friend, colleague, or family member has recently had a good experience with a company, that is worth much more than a review from a stranger online.

Get multiple estimates. If one is far lower than the rest, that is a big red flag. Remember, if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is!

When hiring a moving company, make sure you get a full written contract that includes the estimate, exactly what work you need to have done, and specifies that the price cannot be more than 10% more than the original quote. Also discuss insurance; even good movers may damage something. What sets the good ones apart is taking responsibility for damages incurred and having or helping you set up the appropriate insurance.

Be wary of up front deposits. Some services require deposits (for instance, renovation services that have to buy raw materials), but never give one without first drawing up a contract and checking their references. If possible, front any initial costs for materials yourself so you don’t have to give out a deposit. A post-dated cheque or a PayPal payment are good alternatives to cash as you have recourse if the services paid for do not materialize.

Specifically ask about other costs not mentioned in the quote, and read the fine print on a contract.

Stay away from companies with out any history. Non reputable companies will frequently change their name to avoid the bad reputation they have gained from past work. If you can’t find any information about the past jobs of the company, keep looking for a company that has a reputation they are invested in protecting. Look for markers of an established business – for instance, printed business cards, a website, an address listed. If looking for a moving service, the presence vans advertising the company name and contact information are also a good sign, as it shows that the owners have invested in their name and are thus more likely to want to protect their reputation.

Be skeptical; if it seems too good to be true, chances are, it is. Want to learn more about moving scams? The Financial Services Commission of Ontario is running a chat on how to identify and avoid moving scams today, Thursday August 14th at 1 PM EST. Follow the hashtag #FraudChat on Twitter and the FSCO Twitter account

Finding Great Roommates That Fit Your Lifestyle

Whether you are starting a new school year, moving to a new apartment, or embarking on a new adventure across the country, finding roommates that fit your personality and lifestyle can be a tall order. How can you find a set of people to share your house with that you will remain compatible with?

Think long term. If you find yourself at the end of your lease with nowhere to go, its easy to work yourself into a panic, overlook red flags and move in without thinking it through. This could turn out fine – or, it could result in a disaster. If possible, start looking for a roommate about 2 months before you will actually need one. This should give you time to meet up with several possibilities, and think through the options carefully. If you have to find a new place on very short notice, consider subletting a place or a room until you have found a living arrangement that you feel comfortable with in the long term rather than signing a lease with someone less than ideal.

Know your own habits, and what you will put up with. As nice as it would be to live with someone who will clean up after you, if your room mate is a clean freak and you are a slob, it is not going to work out for either of you. Try to find someone with a lifestyle and preferences that match yours. If you prefer to stay at home, have alone time, and like the quiet, a party animal room mate or someone who is always entertaining is likely not going to be a good match.

Don’t overlook red flags. If all you want is a quiet place to read when you get home, and they keep talking about loving to jam on their drum kit, or watch tv all evening, you probably won’t be a good fit. If they have a history of unpaid debts don’t just assume they will pay you the rent on time. Don’t panic that you won’t find someone and settle for someone you will have friction with later.

Finding a Roommate that Fits Your Lifestyle

Be honest. Are you a very light sleeper? Are you always coming and going late at night? Does having meat in your fridge offend you? Do you love having parties at home? Be up front with your lifestyle so that both of you can make an informed decision on whether the fit is right.

Do a background check. Verify that their job is what they say it is, talk to former roommates, and do a credit check. Add them on social media if you can. People might display very different parts of their personality in an interview setting than they do on social media.

Make sure the space works for the arrangement. As cool as lofts are, a loft without defined bedrooms might not work so well when sharing with roommates, especially if they are loud. If you end up with the tiny bedroom and no space of your own, will that work with how you like to spend your time? Who should get that better bedroom, anyway? Will they pay increased rent?

Have you ever had a roommate that was not a good fit? Share your stories in the comments, or, find a new roommate on Kijiji!

Kijiji Guide to Protecting Collectibles

Love to collect items but don’t have proper storage set up? Very old, delicate, or valuable items may have specialized care requirements. However, if you are just looking to keep your collections organized and out of harms way, here are some handy tips to keep in mind.

  • Any collectible item made from a natural source material such as paper, fabric, leather or wood has the potential to be damaged by mold and mildew. First edition books, treasured rookie cards, stamps and postcards can easily be ruined by improper storage. Mold thrives in humid and poorly ventilated areas such as attics and basements, which are the worst place to store these delicate valuables, and can cause significant deterioration in the condition (and thus the value) of your items.
  • Store your paper, stamps, books, and collectible cards in a room that has good air circulation, and a relative humidity somewhere between 35% and 50%. Buy a dehumidifier to keep the humidity levels within this range. If you have certain rooms that are air conditioned, these are also better places for storing these items.
  • Treating your items with fungicides may seem like a good idea, but this can lead to them being even more susceptible to mold and mildew after the treatment. These harsh chemicals can also damage the item or be bad for your health, so utilize extreme caution if you are considering this method to get rid of mold or mildew.
  • Try to avoid acquiring more delicate paper collectibles than you have time to care for. Seek quality over quantity, as mold or mildew from one item may spread to your other items if improperly stored.
  • Protecting Collectables

  • Ensure that collectible cards are kept somewhere that protects their corners. For bulk collections, a binder with clear storage pockets is a good way to maintain their condition that is still easy to view. If you have any really valuable cards, look into hard plastic or acrylic cases that screw down to protect them from damage, and display them if you so choose.
  • You may want to display your collectible items proudly. For instance, having sports memorabilia on display is a great way to start conversations or to decorate a “man cave” or den. Framing items is a great way to protect paper, tickets, event programs, and any other flat object you want to preserve. Make sure to take your valuables to a professional framer who knows what they are doing and only use acid free matting and backing.
  • For pottery, glasswear, china or acrylic collectibles, the main risks are from breaking on impact. If you live in an area that is hit by earthquakes, consider attaching any valuables on display to the wall securely. Displaying treasured items in a china cabinet is a great way to keep them away from pets, kids, and guests with butter fingers who may damage the objects as they admire them more closely.