Unfortunately, scam artists target any and everyone. There's no secret tip or cloak of invisibility to avoid being targeted, but through developing your essential and financial literacy skills you can steer clear of falling victim. This post will outline some easy ways that you can protect yourself from having money or your identity stolen through fraudulent tactics.
Staying up-to-date on current scams
On a daily basis, scammers are coming up with new and creative ways to steal money and information from other people. Scam artists will try to incorporate more technology and trusted sources into their ploys to try and catch you off guard. The first step in developing your knowledge of scams is reading trusted local news sources for scams happening in your area. If you type in "scam" followed by the city you're living in into a web browser, a whole slew of articles will appear. Another great resource is the Scam Index that's been prepared by the Canadian Government. This resource details everything from the Taxpayer to the Foreign Lottery Scam, and recommends what steps you need to take if you've become a victim. You can find the resource by clicking here.
Common scams in Canada:
Taxpayer or Canada Revenue Agency: A scammer claims to be an employee of either the Canada Revenue Agency or Service Canada. They state that you owe back taxes, have unpaid balances, or have committed a financial crime. They insist that you need to pay immediately, otherwise you'll be arrested.
Counterfeit cheque: In this scam, a scammer sends a text message or email to people who post their resumes online, offering them a job. Job offers can include: caregiver, administrative assistant, data entry clerk, or mystery shopper. The scammer sends you a counterfeit cheque, asks you to cash it and return some of the funds to the fraudster.
Counterfeit merchandise: Counterfeiters use websites that have the same look and feel as a legitimate manufacturer to sell products at big discounts. The products are far more inferior and could pose significant health risks. Some red flags to watch out for include: no customer phone/email listed on the website, product packaging has no labels, and the price is hugely discounted.
Keep your personal details and devices secure
When so much information is easily accessible through social media, it's become increasingly important to keep your personal details secure. The first thing you should do is store all of your passwords, pins, and access codes in a secure location. For less than $3/month, Keeper Security is a top-rated password management program that IT teams swear by for its security and privacy features. If you've logged into an account using a public computer or it's been a year since you changed your password, then you should look into coming up with a new case-sensitive password.
When making passwords, make sure that would be:
difficult for other people to guess
include upper-case and lower-case letters as well as numbers and symbols
If you have any sensitive documents that you no longer need, look into shredding these documents before putting them into recycling. Scammers can get a lot of information that can be used to their advantage from electricity, phone, and other utility bills to steal more information about your identity. Lastly, make sure that all of your devices and computers are password protected.
Don't open suspicious texts or emails with links/attachments
If you don't recognize the number or email, it's worth fact checking it against an authentic source to see if the contact details match a real business or organization. It's also good practice to never open a link or file attachment sent through text or email from a new contact since any information you enter can be used to steal your identity.
How to spot a fake email:
Scammers can easily fake an official-looking email, using the same logo and design as the real company. Often your guard is down when you receive an email from a company you've dealt with before, such as Canada Post or an online shopping site you use. If you're not expecting an email, always be alert to a fake before clicking on any links or opening any attachments.
Beware of any requests for your details or money
Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don't agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.
Here is a video detailing an attempted overpayment scam in Calgary, AB.