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How Scams Are Targeting You & Your Money

Scams target your money using manipulation and confusion.

No matter who you are, there is a good chance a scam may have targeted you in the past. Scams can come in various formats, and they’re adapting every day to separate you from your money as much as possible. 

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CFAC), nearly 13,000 Canadians have lost over $51 million in 2020 alone, and this number is expected only to get higher. This indicates a severe lack of understanding of frauds and scams, how it targets you, and the techniques scammers use to steal your money.

Once a scam has dug its claws into your money, it can be disastrous for you, your family, and even your business.

Common Types of Scams You May Encounter

Everybody knows what a scam is, but not everybody knows how people might try to scam you. Scammers and fraudsters constantly develop new tactics to have people buy into their schemes, and some can be masters of manipulation and control.

The CFAC carries a list of common scams, each designed to manipulate you into giving away your money. Some of the most common are:

Foreign Money Offers

Foreign money offers are so common that they’ve become colloquially known as “Nigerian Prince” scams. Scammers performing this will attempt to reach you by phone or email, and the hook is that there is a sum of money available to you, but you won’t have access to it until you send a predetermined amount of money to them.

Scammers can achieve this by how they approach their stories. In some cases, they’ll state that you have a distant relative who has passed and has willed you an incredible amount of money, won a lottery, or have forgotten money in an account. You can receive these funds if you pay some sort of deposit, like a transfer fee, for example. But once they have your money, they disappear.

These scammers may contact you by email or phone call. But you should delete the email, hang up the phone, and do not engage the caller or sender. If you do not know the sender, if they feign to be a legit business without knowing your actual name aside from your email address or phone number, or if the grammar or spelling is ‘off’ in their message, do not believe a thing they say. 

Another way a scammer can approach you, even a live and in-person scammer, is by offering some substantial return on investment. Put your money into their investment plan, and you will get great returns. However, once you’ve given money to them, you won’t see any return, and the scammer might come back to try and steal from you again.

Canada Revenue Agency

A common scam many Canadians have experienced is the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) scam. Typically performed on the phone, you’ll be notified that you owe money to the CRA in some fashion, either through back taxes, unpaid balances, or penalties, but you should not disclose your SIN number or any other ID. Just hang up.

The scammers may demand payment through various avenues, sometimes through prepaid gift cards and Bitcoin. They will never ask for money to be mailed in to the real CRA address. If you notice this, hang up.

What makes this scam so effective is that the CRA is a real agency that could contact you for the aforementioned reasons. However, in nearly all cases, the CRA will send you a letter if they need to get a hold of you.

Romance Scams

Romance scams have increased dramatically with the advent of the internet, social networking, and dating apps. How romance scams work is that the scammer will contact you on a dating site, social media site, or email to engage in a romantic relationship. From here, the scammer will have a couple of different ways to steal your money.

Over time, they will give you a false sense of security by sending you phony pictures, lying about how much you two have in common, and telling you how in love they are with you even though you have never met, they will sense when they can engage in asking you for money. Their reasons can include buying plane tickets to come to see you, but at the last minute, their flight cancels, or an emergency happens. They may also ask you for capital to start up their own business and promise a sum back once they’ve made their return. However, you will never see this money again. Eventually, once the scammer has decided they’ve taken as much as possible, or if you’re showing signs of skepticism, they’ll find a way to disappear.

Another way to steal your money is through extortion. Scammers may manipulate you into sharing your personal or sensitive information with them, allowing them to use it against you unless you transfer them a certain amount of money.

Computer Security Scams (Phishing)

Computer security scams are generally only delivered by emails or messages that also contain external links. Do not click on the links. Once these links open, they can deploy a virus into your computer, risking theft of your personal information and possibly locking you out of your computer. Always be suspicious of emails you think are suspicious; just delete them and/or call your local anti-fraud police.

Some of these scammers disguise themselves as people you should know because they can look at your social media profiles, for example, and pretend to be one of your friends or relatives. Because they’re disguised, it’s much easier for people to trust the links they’ve been sent. Always examine the email sender address, and if in doubt, call the phone number you have for your friend or relative to check it out.

Who Do Scams Target?

Always confirm any source asking for money. It may not be who it seems.

Individuals

Where scams are most effective is when they target an individual. Scams are looking for vulnerable and easy to manipulate people, making the elderly and immigrant communities common communities for scam artists.

Elderly People

Fraud is the #1 crime against seniors in Canada. This happens because they’re often available during the day to answer phone calls and emails, and are less likely to turn to family and friends for a second opinion about potential scams. Because of this, they are often the target of phone, door-to-door, and email scams resulting in credit/debit card fraud and identity theft.

Immigrants

Immigrants are also targeted because of their possible lack of knowledge about their new country and how it works. Because of this, scammers manipulate immigrants by posing as Canadian government employees, threatening to arrest or deport the person if they don’t send the demanded payment.

Businesses

Businesses can also be scammed. Scammed business owners reported a loss of over $17 million in 2018. In many cases, scammers can have a working knowledge of the business and its relationships with clients, allowing them the opportunity to steal the business’ or the client’s money. 

Scammers can pose as clients or executives to execute their plans. They can also use stolen credit cards to fulfill orders, putting the charge back on the business once it becomes clear the card was stolen. These scams can include wire fraud, spear phishing, directory scams, and more.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself

Resources

Whether you believe you’re a target of a scam or worry if someone you know may be a victim of one, there are resources available to help protect yourself against scams and prevent them from stealing your money or identity in the future:

Agencies

Further Information

Tips

Following these tips may help you protect your money from potential scammers:

  • Don’t give any money to charities unless they are listed in the Canada Revenue Agency, or you have checked them out personally in your city/town.
  • Confirm any collection agencies with your local provincial government.
  • Never give out personal information on the internet or over the phone, including:
    • Social Insurance Number
    • Address
    • PINs and banking information for debit and credit cards
    • Name
    • Birthdate
  • Verify credit card companies by calling the number on the back of your card.
  • Pay attention to any fees or deposits you’re asked to make and check the ‘fine print’ on paper, emails, or websites.
  • Change passwords on your phone and computer regularly.
  • Confirm the identity of anyone asking for money from you, including family and friends.
  • Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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