In 2018, the Better Business Bureau reports that $120 million was lost in Canada to various types of fraud, up from some $60 million in 2015.
It breaks my heart to hear about people losing their hard-earned cash to increasingly clever and sophisticated scams. Today, I want to help you identify and defend against this onslaught of fraudsters attempting to steal your money.
Fraud attempts can take many forms and come from anywhere. I’m pretty sure I lost $10 to a fraudster last month at an interstate rest stop in Montana. But he had a great story and two adorable dogs, and I can afford the $10.
However, when a representative from “Microsoft Windows” happened to call our home after my wife thought I had called in a computer repair request, they very nearly got all of our online banking and investment information and passwords. It was only when she caught on to what they were doing and literally pulled the plug in the nick of time that our data and possibly our online identities were saved.
According to the BBB, the Romance Scam is the single most damaging scam in Canada, netting an estimated $22.5 million in 2018. So, let’s start there.
Online dating sites are very popular, and a great way to meet other people. However, the minute that someone you meet starts asking for money is the time to immediately disconnect. It typically starts small but will escalate.
These fraudsters are often highly skilled and use proven techniques and tear-jerking stories to pry money from people they have befriended.
Other popular current scams include telling you that you owe money to CRA, you have a fine outstanding, you’ve won a prize and just need to pay to register and collect, your computer is infected with a virus, your online banking has been compromised and you need to provide your password, or that your help is needed for your bank to improve its security.
CRA scams are particularly prevalent now, at tax time, so do not click on any link that claims to be from CRA.
Never give money or personal information to someone you’ve met online, in response to an email you receive, or to someone who phones you. Ever.
If anyone asks you to pay for ANYTHING by purchasing gift cards, by giving your credit card information or by transferring cyber currency, immediately click off and report this as fraud.
The request could be for money that a person desperately needs, fines for infractions you have supposedly committed, CRA debts they claim you owe that could result in your arrest, or a variety of other urgent reasons.
Please don’t fall for any of these.
It appears the latest “phishing” email approach uses emails that look like they legitimately came from Canada Post, encouraging you to click on a link to track the status of the package delivery. With the increase of online shopping, this one catches lots of people. Don’t click.
March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, and there are lots of online resources to help you arm yourself against this scourge. These include the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501), run by the Government of Canada, at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca, or the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtacker/us/.
You can help the cause by reporting any suspected fraud attempts. If you lose money, call the police.
People who are new to technology, new to the banking and credit union system, and people who are naturally trusting are all particularly vulnerable to the scams but, believe me, no one is immune. Millennials have recently been identified as particularly vulnerable. Due to their familiarity and trust in technology.
Please protect yourself and help spread the word.
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Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.
Please consult legal, tax, insurance and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.
David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIMis recipient of the Fellow ofFPSCTM Distinction, and repeatedly named a Top 50 Financial Advisor in Canada. He is a Portfolio Manager and Senior Vice President with Christianson Wealth Advisors at National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.