If we say the word “scam”, you’ve probably heard about some of the latest ways criminals try to defraud honest Canadians: the Grandparent Scam, the Romance Scam, the Bank Inspector scam, “Your SIN number has been compromised”, “You’ve won a prize (and you just have to pay the handling fees)…” etc. The list goes on and, sadly, there are new variations on old scams every day. In addition, the investigations are very challenging; the criminals can be half-a-world away, impervious to law enforcement efforts to find and charge them or recover a victim’s money. But the good news is: public awareness and education can make all the difference by preventing these crimes from happening at all. That’s what Fraud Awareness Month and other public education campaigns are all about.
One of this year’s themes is: Recognize, Reject and Report. Fraudsters are successful because they capitalize on a victim’s emotions, trying to get them to react without thinking. We want to remind people to slow down, think critically and recognize the techniques used to get them to react out of fear, panic, or desperation. In your everyday life, make sure you are taking steps to reject fraud attempts by protecting your personal information. Monitor account activity; use proven anti-virus software; be very cautious about doing business over the phone. Take steps to verify any claims with trusted friends or family. The final step is reporting: speak up about fraud attempts, even if you didn’t lose money. Tell friends; report to local police and definitely report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. If you are a victim, there are reporting steps that can help mitigate your losses, such as contacting your financial institution or credit bureaus.
Here is a helpful checklist you can use any time someone contacts you, by phone or e-mail, asking for personal information:
Fraud Prevention Checklist
A few questions to ask yourself every time you are contacted for personal information:
- Is the call unsolicited? Was it expected or out of the blue?
- Are they asking you to confirm personal information such as your name, address, or account details?
- Are they looking for a fast or instant response?
- Are they asking you for money?
- Is the caller avoiding using the actual name or the company or financial institution?
- Are they offering you a prize, free gift, or trial?
- Are they claiming to be the police or investigating something?
- Does the email have an odd email address?
- Is the formatting strange or are there spelling mistakes?
- Are you being asked to change your password despite not sending a request to do so?
If any of these questions apply, do not provide your information and seek advice. Remember, scam artists want you to hurry; slow things down, take time to think critically, and ask a trusted person for help.
Learn more about scams and how to prevent them:
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca)