Written by Kelley Keehn
Friday, February 14th, 2020
In 2019, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre recorded more than 43,000 reports of fraud affecting Canadians. There were 1,700 victims with more than $90 million in reported loss. Extortion scams remained the top reported scam in 2019, with nearly 20,000 reports received from Canadians. Meanwhile, phishing attacks caused more than $20 million in reported losses to Canadian businesses.
As you look to the year ahead to protect yourself and your loved ones, what are the top fraud scams that you should have on your radar?
Dominic Vogel, Founder & Chief Strategist for CyberSC, lists three scams that are continuing to catch people off guard. Let's break them down and look at how to protect against them.
1. The Social Insurance Number Scam
"In some instances, the fraudsters are after personal details in order to perform identity theft. Other times, they're trying to access money directly. Threats and intimidation are hallmarks of this scam," says Vogel.
A commonly reported version of this scam involves receiving a terrifying call claiming to be from Service Canada or the RCMP, stating your Social Insurance Number has been compromised. "These calls seem so real because the person on the line will give an official sounding name, badge number and case number," says Vogel.
They'll often say your Social Insurance Number was involved in a drug and money-laundering investigation. The "officer" will protect your money, but they'll force you into transferring your savings to gift cards (they carefully take note of the gift card numbers and codes for their use). They'll try to convince you that you can't tell anyone, because if you do, that could further implicate you in the investigation.
2. The Romance Scam
Many real, personal connections are made online nowadays, but it's also a chance for fraudsters to build trust with potential victims.
"This scam has been growing at a blistering rate," says Vogel.
"It usually starts with a new connection that is being overly flirtatious and complimentary and wanting to meet in-person quickly. This love connection is suddenly followed by the romancer needing financial help to get out of a very elaborate jam."
3. The Income Tax Scam
This scam comes in different flavours. Many Canadians have been phoned by somebody claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), accusing them of being delinquent on their taxes owing and pressuring you to pay by wire transfer or gift cards.
Others have received an email or text message indicating the CRA has sent your tax refund by Interac e-Transfer®, and in order to deposit the money, you need to click a link. Delete that right away. The CRA is very clear about their communication methods, and they don't email people and ask them to divulge personal information through a link. They advise checking your online account or calling them directly.
Red Flags to be on the Lookout For
- Government entities will not text you or call you directly
- Don't have the scammer call you back
- Phone numbers can be spoofed: that's where real numbers can be copied, and criminals can make it look like their call is coming from a legitimate place
- Don't trust caller ID as a means of filtering out scam calls
- The Government is never going to threaten you or try to intimidate you over the phone, text or email
How to Protect Yourself
Vogel wants you to know that a healthy dose of skepticism is OK.
"Stop and think critically when receiving emails, texts, and phone calls. Ask yourself if the request is preying on primal human emotions such as fear, doubt, or greed. Don't be afraid or feel silly by reaching out to trusted experts (BBB, financial institutions, Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre) if you're unsure."
When in doubt: hang up, or delete the text/email.