Why fraud can impact anyone at any age
Written by Kelley Keehn

Thursday, June 15th, 2023

You don't hear quite as much about bank robberies or train heists these days, but that doesn't mean theft has gone away. Instead, thieves, like video store managers and switchboard operators, are changing with the times.

They're more technically advanced than ever, working to steal our personal and financial information through silent digital heists. But they're still robbers, perpetrating their crimes through social media, texts and emails.

June is Seniors Month in Ontario, and most people are aware that seniors are common targets for fraud. But they aren't the only ones. The younger generation, which spends a lot of its time online, might not see the threats looming. In fact, 73% of Canadian youth in a recent poll from Scotiabank reported being targeted or falling for at least one instance of financial fraud. Another survey from Chartered Professional Accounts of Canada (CPA Canada) showed that more young Canadians report being a victim of fraud than older Canadians.

But no matter your age, you'll want to be on the lookout for fraud and scams trying to take your hard-earned money.

Who's a greatest risk for fraud?

Every age group is vulnerable to and affected by fraud, explains Jeff Horncastle, Acting Client and Communications Outreach Officer with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

“But certainly younger people could be more exposed to fraud because of their sheer volume of time on social media," he says. “In fact, social media fraud caused losses of $154 million in 2022. Younger cohorts are also using social media to free up cash selling shoes, clothes and other items.

“Another fraud that may target them is scammers sending fake e-transfers and PayPal confirmations. But once the goods have been shipped, it's tough to get them back, and the money never arrives."

Doretta Thompson, financial literacy leader with CPA Canada, agrees. “Canadians, especially younger Canadians, are increasingly turning to online services and personal devices to carry out daily activities, making it more important than ever to safeguard private financial information. The more we're online, the more we're opening ourselves up to smart scammers, so extra diligence is required."

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The numbers on youth and fraud

Though they tend to be incredibly tech-savvy, young people are increasingly vulnerable to fraud. And it's no wonder since 63% of Canadian youth say they haven't been taught in school about financial fraud and how to avoid it. Most importantly, young Canadians are more likely to share their personal and financial details and spend more time consuming social media and shopping online, leaving them more exposed to identity theft and scams.

I'm older than the young demographic highlighted by the two recent polls, but their warning — that there's a gap in knowledge of how to protect ourselves — rang true. After scrolling through my Instagram one day, I noticed an influencer friend had just followed me. “How nice," I thought, and of course, followed her right back. It briefly occurred to me that we should have already been connected on the platform, but who can keep track these days?

In a matter of moments, she DM'd me to ask if I'd vote for her in an influencer contest. “Of course," I replied. I have to support my new connection, right? Then two follow-up messages came in a row.

“Did you get the link?"

“Have you voted for me yet?"

Hmmm. Something smelled fishy. After searching for my friend on Instagram, it quickly became obvious that this was a fake account, trying to entice me to click a link that no doubt would seek to obtain my personal or financial information for harm.

Though older people are often seen as prime targets for fraudsters — which is still accurate — younger Canadians are online a lot more, which opens them up to a greater risk of fraud. While there should be no shame in reporting or admitting you've fallen victim to scammers or cyber criminals, only 27% of Canadians have admitted to telling family members about it, while 22% have disclosed this information to friends, according to the CPA Canada study. There is a possibility that older people are not accurately reporting fraudulent encounters compared to younger people.

Protect yourself from financial fraud with these tips

While financial fraud isn't inevitable, knowing your rights and how your financial institution can help you after an incident is critical. Here are some tips from the CPA Canada and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to help protect yourself from fraud:

Know what to do if you're a victim

If you become a fraud victim, gather all information about the incident and contact your financial institutions. Change passwords and report it to your local police and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Don't be ashamed — telling family and friends might prevent them from becoming victims, too.

Provide financial information only to secure websites

Cybercriminals often use cloned webpages to imitate a legitimate website to steal your banking information. Never use public or unsecured Wi-Fi connections to access sensitive data such as what's in your bank accounts. Doing so could put you at an even greater risk of being hacked.

Know how you're protected from unauthorized transactions

Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Interac protect you against financial loss if someone uses your credit or debit card without your permission, as long as you comply with their policies. You're responsible, however, for keeping your account information and Personal Identification Number (PIN) safe. There is a maximum amount you'll be responsible for if someone uses your credit card without your permission. If a bank issued your credit card, the maximum is $50.

Stay up to date with the latest information

Educating yourself about fraud prevention and cyber safety can seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. CPA Canada offers many free tips and resources to help Canadians stay safe against fraud. Its catalogue of financial literacy sessions is available online, including Fraud Protection workshops and educational materials.

Many of us love our smartphones, but we might not think the person on the other side of our communication could be a criminal. They could be lurking in places where we least expect it. Take time to slow down when scrolling, always be on the lookout for attachments and links that could be malicious, and never accept friend requests from people you don't know.

Learn what to look out for, how to protect yourself, and what Tangerine is doing to help keep you safe 24/7 at our Security Centre.

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