Despite efforts to protect personal information, scam artists and fraudsters continue to be an unfortunate reality of our society. Even with substantial advances in the technology of security and safety features, creative criminals still manage to defraud Canadians each year out of hard-earned cash. But, with a little knowledge of some common scam tactics, you can help prevent yourself from falling victim to one of their tricks.
Here are some common scams and tips on how to prevent them from happening to you:
- “Too-Good-to-Be-True” Scams
As a general rule: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The same rule applies when it comes to flagging a potential scam. If someone you do not know or an organization you do not recognize is contacting you either to give you money, save you unrealistic amounts of money or to court you as a middleman to move money, they may be attempting to scam you. These types of scams, commonly referred to today as ‘419 scams’ or ‘advance fee scams,’ typically apply some sort of urgency, such as a time limit on your response, whether by phone or via email.
Although these scams can originate from international locations, Canadian homegrown scams of this nature are common as well. Always be vigilant when it comes to people offering you special tax breaks if you provide your bank account information for direct deposit or malicious fake employment websites demanding fees in return for finding you your dream job.
- Phishing Scams
Done primarily through email, but also done via phone, this type of scam involves fraudsters sending emails with the intention of getting you to reveal information or to pay non-existent fees. Common tactics involve instilling fear in order to coerce victims to comply. For example, you may receive an email allegedly from your bank informing you that your account has been compromised and that you need to move your savings into another account while they “investigate.” You are then directed to an imposter site which mimics the look and feel of your bank, asking for personal information regarding your account, from your Social Insurance Number (SIN) to usernames and passwords, to your bank and line of credit numbers.
In Canada, a prominent scam of this type is the ‘CRA Scam,’ where a fraudster claiming to be an agent of the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) uses threatening or forceful language to coerce you into settling supposed debts with the CRA. While efforts have been made to end this scam, newer versions involve a fraudster contacting a previous victim offering payback of losses in installments with fees attached. We will never ask you to provide personal information, such as your SIN, over email. Be wary of emails asking you for this type of information.
- Spearphishing Scams
Like phishing scams, this type of scam is designed to gain access to personal information, install malware on your computer or just defraud you out of some cash. But, unlike a traditional phishing scheme, spearphishing emails, texts, phone calls or even social media posts appear to originate from trusted sources or people you know. If a company or someone you know is asking for personal details or money, it never hurts to double-check with them personally to see if their own personal lines of communication have been compromised or hacked.
How to prevent common scams from happening to you:
- Always vet suspicious addresses, people or companies attempting to contact you
- Question emails which include spelling or grammatical errors, threats
- Never disclose your President's Choice Financial® Mastercard® online unless shopping from a verified secure site, distinguishable by a lock or key symbol or ‘https’ URL
- Never send money to someone or a company you do not know or trust
- Check your President's Choice Financial® Mastercard® statements regularly for suspicious activity
Additional Cyber Security Tips:
- Block malware attacks – Ensure that anti-malware products are installed and kept up-to-date, and operating system security patches are applied and kept current.
- Be vigilant with your emails – Never open emails or attachments from people you don’t know, and never follow any links to Web sites included in such emails.
- Surf securely - Avoid connecting to untrusted networks, such as free and insecure public WiFi.
Tips to keep your password secure
- Don’t give out your password to anyone.
- Don’t use the same password across all your accounts
- Don’t only use common words that would be found in the dictionary.
- Don’t post it on a sticky note! Keep your passwords out of plain sight
If you or someone you know falls victim to a common scam or other fraudulent activity, immediately report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre via their online tool or call toll-free at 1-888-495-8501. Also be sure to contact your local police service for more information on how to proceed.