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How one of our employees avoided being scammed on Kijiji
by Marissa on 

For 35 years and many moves, Étienne carted several pieces of antique furniture with him wherever he went – a buffet, a hutch, a table, a corner table and a filing cabinet.

Preparing for another residential move, FCNB’s Director of Financial Institutions decided it was time to part with these pieces. So he did what many of us do: he posted an ad on Kijiji. He was selling all five pieces for $500. Within 15 minutes of posting, he got a response...

“It was like casting a line and a fish hitting right away,” he says.

The email reply came from a man named Dave. He  saw the ad and was going to alert his father, who was an antiques collector.

“This initial email was interesting,” he said. “Looking back, it was an attempt to legitimize the scam even more.”

Soon after, Étienne received an email from Smith Denis – not Denis Smith. The writing was not gramatically correct, which might have been Étienne’s first clue.

“Thank you for your anticipated cooperation and make sure you end the item listing immediately. I will be sending the payment soonest and i will email you when am done with it. More so you will be notify by PayPal in your email address after make the payment,so just make sure you check your email to confirm payment when it is completed.”

Still, Étienne thought he had a legitimate buyer in the man who went onto claim he was a marine biologist working in California. The buyer explained he would arrange a shipper to pick up the items at Étienne’s house. But first, the buyer was going to send him a total of $973 US through PayPal and instructed Étienne to check his email for a confirmation of payment from PayPal.

That’s when Étienne’s spidey senses began tingling. The buyer was sending him an overpayment of $473. He instructed Étienne to wire the extra $400 to his shipper through a MoneyGram. Étienne could keep the remaining amount for his troubles in arranging the shipper.

“As soon as he asked me to send money to a third party, I knew something was up,” Étienne said.

Kijiji is aware of this overpayment scam. Here’s how it typically works:
  • The scammer sends an email agreeing to buy your item.
  • The scammer then instructs you to check your email for a confirmation of payment from PayPal.
  • The scammer’s payment includes an overpayment – money over and above the asking price – to pay for a shipper to retrieve the purchased items.
  • The scammer instructs you to send the overpayment to the shipper or agent via Western Union, MoneyGram or a bank tranfer. He provides the shipper’s contact info.
  • The scammer says the shipper will come retrieve the purchased item once it has received payment.
  • Turns out, the confirmation of payment email from PayPal is a spoof. While it appears legitimate, a closer look reveals it’s not.The payment has not been deposited into your account. Meanwhile, you have just wired money from your bank account to a “shipper.”

Étienne called the buyer’s bluff. Suddenly, the string of emails came to a stop.

“There was no response,” he says. “He just went away.”

This story could have played out badly, but it has a happy ending. Without a legitimate buyer, Étienne still had his antiques. Not long after, he ran into an old acquaintance, who now retired, was volunteering with Enviro Plus in Moncton.

The non-profit hires the homeless and the unemployed to clean, fix, repurpose and sell furniture, keeping it from filling landfills. Its provides a 16-week training, giving people new skills and a second chance to find steady work.

Étienne donated his antique furniture.

“So the $500 I would have made personally is now going to help other people.”

  • Watch for these red flags when using online classifieds to sell or buy items:
  • Beware of buyers who send more money than your asking price. If you receive a cheque or money order that is more than the agreed amount of money, refuse the payment.
  • Never send money to a third party.
  • Instead of a cheque or money order, request a certified cheque, or better yet, an electronic payment such as an email money transfer. This way, the funds are deposited into your account and are guaranteed right away.
  • Meet in-person with the buyer or seller to thorough inspect the product and then exchange funds. Meet in a public place.

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Just do it: Advice from a CEDC pioneer
by Marissa on 

To those considering launching New Brunswick’s first Community Economic Development Corporation (CEDC), Rankin MacSween has some advice.
Clarify your plan and just do it.

“When you do it, it might not go the way you want it to go,” he says. “So reflect on it, but keep going.”

Rankin heads New Dawn Enterprises, which was founded in 1976 to revitalize Cape Breton’s regional economy that collapsed with the closure of coal mines and a steel plant. Today, it is the oldest CEDC in Canada and it employs 175 people and services 600 Cape Bretoners daily through its companies and projects. It operates nursing homes, a college and rental properties as well as health-care programs, community-based services and a centre for the arts, culture and innovation.

It is regularly quoted as a model to strive toward and is considered one of the first social enterprises in Nova Scotia.

Rankin is also a founding member of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, a national organization that works to strengthen communities by creating economic opportunities that enhance social and environmental conditions.

So he knows a little about CEDCs and what it takes to both launch and be successful at one. That’s why we’ve invited him to be one of our keynote speakers at FCNB’s FullSail 2017, our annual event promoting capital markets in New Brunswick.

Titled Exploring the Possibilities: Community Economic Development Corporations, the free one-day event takes place 14 November at the Dieppe Centre of Arts and Culture and includes a how-to session. Register here.

We spoke with Rankin to learn what advice he will be offering to both entrepreneurs and potential investors who attend our event.

According to him, growing a CEDC is like raising a child.

“There are moments of joy, but there is a grind to it.”

The key for someone inspired to launch a CEDC, he says, is to surround themselves with a core group of knowledgeable people.

“It’s too hard to do it alone.”

In Rankin’s experience, the journey can go one of two ways. The core group does a lot of talking without a lot of action.

“They can’t hit the ball. They are too scared to swing.”

Or, it’s the complete opposite. They go off without thoroughly thinking through their plan.

“So one group gets caught in that vortex of verbalism and the other gets caught in activism,” he says. “You need to balance it out. And you need to believe it is exciting and believe there are going to be troubles, but they are exciting too.”

In its 41 years, New Dawn’s mission has remained the same:  to engage the community to create a culture of self- reliance. But it has continually evolved and diversified.

Over a decade ago, it took advantage of Nova Scotia’s Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) program, similar to New Brunswick’s CEDC program. New Dawn is now one of the largest and most successful CEDIFs in Nova Scotia. Its fund has raised more than $11 million, invested in 10 businesses in addition to investments in New Dawn, and paid more than $1.2 million in dividends to its approximately 600 investors.

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Watch for Scams in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey
by Marissa on 

As we have seen in Fort McMurray, and more recently in British Columbia and Texas, natural disasters can bring out the best in people, with neighbours helping neighbours. Unfortunately, we know from experience that disasters also can bring out the worst in people, particularly those seeking to profit from the misfortune of others.  Scammers follow the headlines and build their newest scams around current events in the news.    

In the wake of widespread damage caused by the wildfires in British Columbia and Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey in Texas, it is important to be on alert for opportunistic investment or charitable donation scams.

Red Flags of Disaster-Related Scams
Watch for red flags of disaster-related scams, including:
  • Unsolicited emails, social media messages, crowdfunding pitches, or telephone calls promoting investment pools or bonds to help storm victims, water-removal or purification technologies, electricity-generating devices, etc.
  • Offering to issue a charitable donation tax receipt for more than your donation amount.  Reputable and registered charities cannot and will not issue tax receipts for more than the value of your donation. If they do, they can lose their registered charity status with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and will be ineligible to issue receipts for tax purposes.
  • If you are the victim of a natural disaster who anticipates receiving large lump-sum insurance settlements, you may be approached with unsolicited or high pressure sales pitches to help you manage or invest this windfall.
  • Unsolicited calls to help you settle an insurance claim from someone claiming to represent the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).  The IBC warns this is a phishing scam.  They do not, and will not, contact consumers to help settle a claim.  Learn more about this scam.

Tips to Help Avoid Disaster-Related Scams:
  • Delete unsolicited emails or social media messages and hang up on aggressive cold callers promoting hurricane-related investments, especially those from small companies touting unproven or new technologies or products.
  • Listen to your gut-feeling.  If it sounds too good to be true – it is.  Claims of guaranteed returns or low/no investment risk are classic red flags. Every investment involves some degree of risk.
  • Do your homework. Check that the individual and firm are registered to sell securities or licensed to sell insurance products. If not, they may be operating illegally.  
  • If you are contacted by telephone asking for a donation, do your research.  Give to those charitable organizations that are registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. As with any charitable contribution, those who want to contribute to relief efforts should send contributions to only those charities with a track record of ensuring donations get to the victims. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, such as if they are registered with the CRA and their identification. If the caller refuses to tell you or does not have verifiable identification, hang up and report it to law enforcement officials.

Disaster-Related Relief and Insurance Information:
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC):
Find information on emergency preparedness, crisis management, risk management for wind, water, fire, ice and earthquake disasters, and more in the “Disaster” section of the IBC’s website.

Service New Brunswick, Emergency Measures Organization:
Flood Recovery for your Home or Business: What you need to know (PDF)  has information to help home and business owners recover from a flood.

Government of New Brunswick:
Learn more about the province’s Disaster Financial Assistance program.

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Viruses and Phishing Scams: Why We Keep Taking the Bait
by Marissa on 

Last month, a Facebook post warned the public to avoid swimming in New Brunswick’s Belleisle Bay. A sighting of a 12-foot bull shark was being shared across newsfeeds. Friends were sharing it with friends and so on.

It was a hoax.  And yet it is still being shared.

We’ve often been warned not to open suspicious files and to be cautious of internet hoaxes. So why is it that we continue to fall prey to phishing scams and download viruses? Are we more inclined to trust the information because it is shared by a friend?

It’s not because we are technologically illiterate or inexperienced internet users. According to Ramona Pringle, director of the Transmedia Zone at Ryerson University, the more frequently we use internet programs, the more likely we are to fall for phishing scams “thanks to a mixture of complacency and a desire to please.”

Fast-paced social media networks make us want to share posts quickly before they disappear from our constantly changing newsfeeds. Sometimes, with the pure intention of protecting friends and family, we share these posts without questioning their validity. This behaviour puts us and others at risk.

Don’t assume the article is legitimate based on a sensational or clickbait headline. Read beyond the headline and think critically about the content before sharing social media posts or forwarding emails in case what we are sharing with friends and family is a scam or hoax.

"It's important when you see anything online that you feel emotionally compelled to share, that you first exercise caution and critical thinking," Jaigris Hodson, head of the Interdisciplinary Studies program at Royal Roads University told CBC in an interview in July.

While the bull shark hoax may be relatively harmless, falling for online scams can have serious consequences. Internet scammers can gather your personal information and steal your identity or infect your computer or mobile device with malicious software.

Beware of malware
Phishing scams created by cyber criminals looking to gather personal and financial information are on the rise. Trends released in the Phishlabs 2017 report show that phishing attacks targeting social media users have tripled year-over-year.

Recklessly clicking on links and downloading images or attachments drastically increases your chance of infecting your system with malware or other viruses. Malware is often disguised as a legitimate attachment from trusted sources, like your bank or even a LinkedIn request, but once you click on it, it can compromise your whole system. Hackers have even found ways to embed malicious code into jpeg images and upload them to a social media website. When a victim clicks and opens the image, the ransomware encrypts all their data until a ransom is paid.

Skepticism is a good thing
Scammers take advantage of reputable online networks and rely on psychological tricks to obtain personal information or to get you to click on infected links.

As LinkedIn becomes one of the most popular professional online networks, scammers are sending fake emails from what appears to be the network, asking to confirm personal information and to accept member invitations through a link containing malware.
"Invitation to Connect on LinkedIn" may now be one of the most widely used subject lines in phishing scams, but it is not the only scam targeting the professional world. Fake job postings on websites and unsolicited job offers sent via email are becoming more prevalent. It’s best to keep track of job hunting website you use and the positions you apply for. Never trust an unsolicited job offer asking for personal information.

Don’t be fooled: If it sounds too good to be true, it is
“The more legitimate something looks, or sounds, the more likely we are to be fooled,” Pringle said in the CBC article.

However, there are usually tell-tale signs that an official-looking email from a trusted company is not valid. Here are some signs to look out for:
  • Poor grammar and misspelled words.
  • You’re asked for money up front to be eligible for a prize.
  • You’re urged to act quickly.
  • Emails from large companies are sent from a Hotmail or Gmail account. Legitimate corporations don’t use these accounts for business.
  • The email greeting is general and not personalized ("Dear Sir/Madam", or “Dear Valued Client”).
  • “You’ve won!” Even though you haven’t entered any contests.
  • You're told to call a 1-900 number to claim your prize. There is always a charge for calling a 1-900 number.

If you’re still not sure, contact the company directly to find out if the information is legitimate.

It is important to remain vigilant, particularly in areas where threats may not have arisen previously. Be wary of suspicious links and think critically before believing or sharing information online. Remember: Not all is what it seems.

For more information on how to detect scams, visit the Frauds & Scams section of our website. Find more cyber safety tips here.  

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Money-saving tips for back-to-school shopping
by Marissa on 

Dear Parents,
As a member of your group, I understand you have mixed feelings this time of year – anxiety, excitement and stress.
Some of you may be worrying about how your five-year-old will cope heading to kindergarten. Some of you may be excited that your teen’s sleeping routine will return to normal instead of their roll-out-of-bed at noon summer habit. Others may be worrying about how much you will spend on back-to-school shopping this year.

I’m here to tell you that:
  • Your five-year-old will survive the first day of school and most likely will come home with tales of fun exploits and new friends.
  • Your teen will likely not want to get out of bed that first day.
  • Back-to-school shopping doesn’t need to break the bank.

I can’t help you with the first two, but here are 10 tips to help you prepare for your back-to-school shopping this year:
  1. The dreaded list – Usually, schools provide a copy of the needed supplies with the June report card. I know. A lot has happened since then: vacation, camp, soccer tournaments, ball games and so on. If you’ve misplaced it, you can usually find it on the school’s website. Some office supply stores will also have copies of the supply list for schools in their area, or check with other parents.

  2. Take inventory – Compare the list with what you have left over from the last school year. If your child is like mine, they probably came home with a sack of school supplies after cleaning out their locker at the end of the year. My son had unused duotangs, packs of loose leaf and graph paper, and reusable binders. He brought home his backpack, pencil case, his coloured pencils, scissors, calculator and geometry set. We tucked them neatly away for September to roll around. Pricing the items we were able to tuck away, I’ve saved about $36 from this year’s shopping list, not to mention the headache of finding these in-demand items in the store.

  3. Price compare – Get out the flyers and compare the prices for the items you still need. In some cases, stores will price match their competitors so bring the flyers with you.

  4. Buy in bulk – If you have more than one child, compare the cost of buying the single item (a binder, for example) with the price of a package of binders. Calculate the price per item in the package deal to see if it offers a savings. Use those math skills you developed back in elementary school or, better yet, get your child to do the calculations. This is a great opportunity to You will be teaching your child about smart spending.

  5. Stock up – When you see a good deal, purchase as many as you can if you know you will need the item next year too. Last year, for example, I came across a deal for loose leafs. It was 25 cents a package (Regular price: $2.73). I purchased the six-package limit, saving myself nearly $15. I went back the next day and purchased more.  With the two packages my son brought home unopened in June, I have enough for this year too.
  6. Lesson learned – Spend money on a quality book bag. It’s the one lesson I’ve learned in my 17 years of back-to-school shopping. The book bags with the latest cartoon character emblazoned on their front usually fall apart by Christmas. The zippers break and the clips for the straps bust, meaning Santa has to leave a new one under the Christmas tree. We began investing in $60-$80 book bags. Many offer a lifetime warranty on the zippers. My oldest son will be graduating from university and is still using the one he carried in Grade 10. If you do the math, that’s about $10 each year versus a $20 cheap book bag you have to replace halfway through the school year.

  7. Check the closet – Do they need a new back-to-school wardrobe? Chances are, they don’t not.  The clothes that fit them at the end of June usually still fit them two months later. Just purchase what your child needs,; not what they want.

  8. Money lessons – Use back-to-school shopping as a way to teach your child about money. Give your child a budget for a needed item, like sneakers. If they want a higher-priced brand, make them earn the extra money by doing chores around the house. If they are too young to understand budgeting, teach them about sticking to a shopping list. These are both tools they will use later in life. Check out our Make it Count parent’s guide on how to teach your children about money management.

  9. Save money throughout the school year – Send your child to school with a packed lunch instead of lunch money. Even if you let them buy their lunch at school once a week (assuming buying a school lunch is $6-7), you are saving more than $800 by the end of the school year.

  10. Budget for next year – Back to school happens every year. If you know your back-to-school expenses, including school fees and school photos, plan for them now. Open a separate savings account and set up an automatic transfer into the account of $6 a week, or $24 a month. Once next September rolls around, you will have almost $300 in the bank.

Have a student headed to university?  You might like this post:  10 Ways to Save Money in University

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