Posts in Trust & Safety

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

Staying Safe & Ethical When Searching for a New Pet

Spring is always a popular time for adding new pets to the family. How can you ensure that the process goes smoothly?

One of the most important things to remember when shopping for a pet online is to make sure to meet the animal in person before making any commitments. This includes inspecting the conditions that the animal has been raised in, and meeting the animals parents. Ask the owner or breeder to visit them at their home to see these conditions. Reputable breeders should have no issue showing off their kennels and where the animals reside. If there are more than 3 dog breeds being raised in the same location, be aware that it may be a puppy mill, and the animal may not be in the best of health (and you may be supporting an unethical breeding operation). If you do suspect that this is the case, alert your local SPCA or humane society.

Be aware of Canadian laws, and the laws of your province and municipality when it comes to pet ownership. Selling or buying exotic animals, such as monkeys, many types of turtles, or tiger cubs is illegal and could land you in serious trouble. Similarly, selling or buying native species to keep as pets is prohibited – so as cute as that raccoon, skunk, or squirrel may be, leave them in their natural habitat!

staying safe while searching for a pet on Kijiji

To avoid scams…

Never send or wire money to sellers (or anyone), no matter how good the deal sounds or how adorable that puppy is! Reputable breeders and rescue organizations won’t ask you to wire money – this is a common hallmark of a fraud attempt.

If you are posting a “Wanted” ad describing the type of pet you are looking for and sharing your phone number, familiarize yourself with SMS scams and reply scams. These are a favorite target of scammers.

Be wary of any pet ad with photos that appear generic. Fraud attempts often use images from Google. If you aren’t sure, ask for more photos of the animal you are interested in.

Remember, Kijiji is only intended for local, face to face transactions. If the animal is not living at a local address, make sure you are willing to go inspect the conditions, meet the animal, and transport your new pet back home. Transactions that involve shipping open up the likelihood of fraud.

Certain types of animals are much more common in fraud attempts. If you come across low priced English Bulldogs, Yorkies, Maltese, Chihuahuas, or Huskies, keep your guard up as these breeds are a favorite target. Fraud involving cats is less common, but Bengals and Sphynx cats are used in scams. Exotic animals and birds are also used by fraudsters, with African Grey Parrots, Macaws, and Cockatoos being the most common.

Remember, you can browse pet ads posted by shelters on Kijiji – don’t forget about the animals in your area waiting for their forever home when searching for a new pet.

Staying Safe While Looking For Housing

Kijiji is a great way to buy or sell a house, list an apartment for rent, or find accommodations. We do our best to keep the site clean and safe, but an important aspect of maintaining a safe site is helping users recognize attempts at scams when they come across them.

If you come across ads or replies that are suspicious, be sure to report them to our staff, or the police if the situation warrants it. Here is how to keep yourself safe from real estate fraud:

  • View properties in person. Kijiji is only intended as a community site, and you should never rent a property without seeing it, or meeting the prospective tenant first. If either party claims they are overseas, they are unlikely to be legitimate. It is common that foreign fraudsters copy listings and won’t be able to show off the inside of an apartment. If they won’t show the inside, be aware that they might not own the building.
  • When looking for rental units, be aware of photos that look very professional or that appear to be model homes. Sometimes listings for properties for sale are copied to rental listings. Be suspicious if there are descriptive passages that would only be relevant to buyers, such as when the roof or furnace was last replaced. These are also signs that the ad might have been copied from a house for sale listing.
  • Be on your guard if the photos are grainy or only show small portions of the space, such as the bathroom.
  • When visiting a property, make sure you bring someone with you, or ask for personal identification of anyone you invite into your home. Make sure you tell someone who you are meeting and where you’ll be.
  • Never send or wire money. Sign a contract, write a postdated cheque, and ask for ID of the other party.
  • Kijiji doesn’t offer any type of buyer protection or payment programs. If anyone claims otherwise or you get an email advertising these services, please forward it to spoof@kijiji.ca as it is an attempt at fraud.
  • Never give out your credit card number or sensitive personal or banking information to those you communicate with over the internet. Be very suspicious of any ads that want responses such as your age, occupation, income, gender, bank, or SIN number as these can also be attempts to steal personal information.
  • Educate yourself about common types of fraud. Be suspicious of offers for large sums of money for helping with any task. Use your common sense – if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is.