Unfortunately, fraud and scams are still an ongoing risk in our day-to-day lives. Whether the bad guys are stealing passwords, creating fake profiles or posing as potential employers, these fraudsters have one goal in mind — to separate you from your money.
Fortunately, there are ways to spot the risks and minimize the risk of falling victim. The key is to be aware of what scams exist and then arm yourself with the tools and techniques in advance.
Here are five types of fraud and how to proactively avoid them:
1. Identity theft
Fraudsters will do anything to get a hold of your personal information, including rummaging through trash bins, stealing mail, using spyware and launching online viruses. Avoid identify theft by following these best practices:
- Don’t use public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots to access financial accounts
- Never share sensitive personal information over the Internet, phone, via text message or email
- Shred and destroy documents that contain personal information
- Create strong unique passwords
The Canada Revenue Agency offers even further advice on how to protect yourself against identity theft. They advise Canadians to be cautious when providing their SIN number or date of birth over the phone, checking with the charities section of the CRA website before donating money, and being suspicious if ever asked to pay taxes on lottery or sweepstakes winnings. These types of actions can all be part of identity theft scams.
2. Romance scam
While love could be in the cards, so too, could be a scam. Some fraudsters are also on dating sites, and once they charm you, they may start asking for money. Although this isn’t meant to sway you away from finding a partner, be cautious if a stranger you’re chatting with starts asking for financial help due to an ill family member or other personal issues. Some good rules of thumb on dating sites include:
- Never send money or give financial details
- Make sure you are on a reputable dating site. Always check the website address carefully, as fraudsters can mimic real web addresses
- Watch out for red flags:
- The relationship is moving too fast
- They have excuse after excuse to not meet you in person
- They ask for money at any point
Did you know: According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, victims of romance scams lost over $22.5 million in 2018, with at least $812,000 pinpointed in Manitoba.
3. Sneaky online selling
Ecommerce is booming, with so many people buying and selling products and services online for both personal life and business operations. Even though it’s become commonplace, you still need to be careful who you connect with, as there is fraudsters lurking in the online shopping markets. Follow these rules:
- If you’re exchanging products, services or money in person, always meet in busy and well lit public places
- Never send money to get money
- Watch for the “overpayment” — This is when the fraudster sends you more money than you required, and then asks you to send the remainder back to them. They may also say the funds are for shipping expenses.
- Beware of buyers who want the product without seeing it
- Watch for generic emails with poor grammar that are hard to understand
4. Online job scam
How can you tell if online jobs are legitimate? While there are very credible job sites such as LinkedIn, fraudsters are also hiding in popular sites like Kijiji, Craiglist and Monster, to name a few. If you didn’t contact them, but they got in touch saying they found your resume online, put your guard up. While recruiters can sometimes find you this way, so can scammers, so beware if the person is offering an incredible position that doesn’t seem to add up.
Some common job scams include posts for mystery shoppers, car wrapping and HR/Administrative positions. No matter where you see a position, do your research on the company and consider these points:
- Is the pay or the position too good to be true?
- Never use your personal account to process payments from strangers
- A legitimate employer will never send you funds and request money back
- You’re asked to cash a cheque or accept an e-Transfer to withdraw funds and forward to a third party.
- Unprofessional emails without proper company credentials
- Beware of unsolicited text messages offering employment
5. Text message bait
With new technology becoming more common, fraudsters are looking at new ways to get your attention in different ways. This includes impersonating the CRA, financial institutions, telephone providers and other companies through phone calls and text messages. Many people are already suspicious of those odd phone calls, but be equally aware of text messages from unknown numbers, “companies” or “organizations” asking you to take action. Here are some helpful tips:
- Beware of unsolicited text messages and do not click on any links
- Watch for spelling errors
- Ask yourself, ‘Was I expecting this text?’
- Do your research and Google the message to see if anyone has reported something similar
- The Canada Revenue Agency NEVER uses text messages
- If you are unsure if the company or organization is legitimately trying to get in touch, find their phone number in a reputable phone listing or website, and call them to talk. Or go see them in person if it’s possible.
It’s important to note that if you’ve ever been scammed, make sure you speak up and report it. Here’s how.
Although fraudsters are indeed out there, this should not prevent you from living your life to the fullest and enjoying all the technology and services at your fingertips. By being aware of the risks, you’ll have a leg up on the scams, can outwit the fraudsters, and feel safe and protected.