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Different types of fraud (and how to detect them)

We’ve all heard news stories of people giving their personal banking information to a wealthy prince overseas who wanted to wire them money, and proceed to roll our eyes and utter “I would never fall for that.”

But the unfortunate truth is fraud is a very real and growing problem for Canadians. Between January 2014 and December 2017, Canadians lost more than $405 million to fraudsters. That’s a lot of scams.

Rupy is a Fraud Risk Analyst on Coast Capital’s Operational Risk Management team. She and her colleagues are responsible for detecting, analyzing, investigating and preventing fraud risks. In honour of Fraud Prevention Month, we got her two cents on the types of fraud out there, and how you can best protect yourself.

Hi Rupy! First off, let’s start with the basics. What is fraud, exactly?

Fraud can be defined as any act of deception, misrepresentation, or wrongdoing for personal or financial gain.

What are some of the different types of fraud out there?

There’s many different types. Some of the most common ones include:

Card Fraud.

This is when criminals use technology to “skim” the data contained on magnetic stripes, manufacture phony cards, and overcome protective card measures like holograms.

Phishing.

This is the creation of email messages and webpages with the intent to replicate existing, legitimate sites and businesses. These websites and emails are used to trick users into submitting personal, financial or password data, or clicking a web link that enables your computer with malware.

Identity theft.

When someone collects or acquires someone else’s personal information (address, email, SIN, birthday, etc.) for criminal purposes.

Are there any trending fraud types that people need to be on the lookout for?

Yes, unfortunately there are a number of types of fraud that are on the rise.

CRA scam.

Also known as a tax scam, this is when you receive a text message from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) claiming you’re entitled to an extra refund. All you need to do is provide banking details. Remember that the CRA would never ask you for personal financial information via text message or email.

Romance scam.

Despite the many legitimate dating websites operating in Canada, there are many dating and romance scams. The scam involves an individual gaining the affection and trust of their victim and then gains access to the victim’s bank account or credit cards to steal their money. Or, the fraudster commits fraud using the victim’s identity.

Microsoft scam.

Many of us have Microsoft programs on our work or personal devices, and cybercriminals are capitalizing on that. They might call you and claim to be from Microsoft. They might also set up websites with popups displaying fake warning messages and a phone number to call to get the issue fixed. Remember, Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide any unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication from them must be initiated by you.

Who is susceptible to being targeted for fraud?

Anyone! Fraud is a crime that threatens any Canadian, regardless of their education, age or income. Last year alone, the CAFC received over 70,000 complaints related to more than 30 different types of fraud and identity theft schemes.

How can people protect themselves?

People can be diligent by protecting their personal information and devices, and trusting their gut. Here’s a few other ways to protect yourself from fraud:

  • Don’t give out log-in credentials or passwords. This might seem like an obvious one, but it happens all too often and is one of the most common ways crooks access sensitive information.
  • Protect your electronic devices from malware and viruses by installing only trusted applications and software.
  • Always get independent advice if an offer involves money, personal information, time or commitment. There’s no guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes – sometimes the only people who make money are the scammers.
  • Log-in directly to a website that you’re interested in rather than clicking on links provided in an email.

What are some red flags to look for?

Many scams involve a request to wire money electronically using a money transfer device, like Western Union, or using cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin. Remember that sending a transfer through these services is like sending cash. Once you’ve sent it, it’s hard to get it back.

Also, be skeptical of any emails, messages or websites that contain misspelled words, grammar errors that make it difficult to read, or expressions that aren’t used correctly. Email and web addresses should also be examined to see if there’s subtle mistakes or differences. For example, coastcapital.com (incorrect) vs coastcapitalsavings.com (correct)

Finally, fraudsters love to ask potential victims for more personal or financial information that is required for the transaction or discussion. Be suspicious if someone asks you for a copy of your passport, driver’s license, or social insurance number.

So I think I’m a victim of fraud. What do I do?

If you are the victim of fraud – you have suffered a loss because of someone’s dishonesty or deception – you should consider contacting your local police detachment.

A good rule of thumb is if it sounds too good to be true, you’re probably right! If you think you’ve spotted a banking or credit card scam, or something just seems off, contact us.

For more resources on fraud and how to prevent it, visit the Competition Bureau Canada website.