FRAUD: If it seems too good to be true, it usually is

This post was written by the former Estonian Credit Union, now Northern Birch Credit Union.

“Congratulations! You’re the 5,000th person to visit our website! Click the link to collect your prize…”

“I’m Prince Muhamed from Nigeria. I need to send money to you in order to help my sick mother…”

“Hello! You’ve won an all-inclusive trip to Mexico! All you have to do is….”

We’ve all been there; you get a telemarketing call while eating dinner with your family, get a text message on your phone from an unknown number, or get an unexpected email in your inbox. Most of us may not think it at the time but these are examples of fraud. When you hear the word fraud and identity theft you likely think, “That would never happen to me!” or “I’m too smart to be tricked!”

You were always taught to cover the pin pad with your hand while making purchases or at the ATM machine, shred any paper or mail with personal information on it, and keep your SIN number and passport in a secure place. However, in the age of the internet there are more types of fraud than you might think, and as technology advances there are evermore increasing avenues for criminals to access their next victim.

Here we’ve listed the many different types of fraud, some methods criminals use to lure you in, and how to keep your identity and money safe.

7 main types of fraud listed by the Government of Canada:

  1. Telemarketing scams
  1. Identity theft
  1. Door-to-door scams
  1. Online scams
  1. Business scams
  1. Email and text message scams
  1. Mail scams

Gaining Trust:

People committing fraud use many methods to access potential victims and gain their trust. Some examples include:

  • Creating emails and web pages using actual logos of reputable companies
  • Using names of actual people that work for the company they are pretending to be from
  • Claiming to have an investment opportunity with a higher than average return
  • Overpaying and having you send money back to them
  • Creating fake ID’s when going door-to-door asking you to donate to a charity
  • Changing their caller ID to a reputable company’s name
  • Knowing how to target vulnerable people (young people, seniors, recent immigrants, those who don’t know English very well, unemployed people, or those who are lonely)
  • Using peoples’ naivety against them
  • Using peoples’ fear against them by having them be afraid that if they don’t do what a caller, email or text says they’ll be in trouble
  • Pretending to be a friend or loved one in distress.

With these tactics and the fact that we are sharing more about ourselves online than ever before, we must educate ourselves and be very conscious of where we share our personal information.

Today we hold a lot of personal information on our smart phones. We enter our personal information into social media and dating apps, when paying for goods and services online, when ordering food online, and when using apps on our smart phones and tablets. We use tap options on our debit and credit cards and now we’re seeing a rise in scanning our phones or use mobile apps to pay for goods.

Criminals are more than keeping up with the advancements. Text message scams and online scams are on the rise. There are scanners that can take your credit card information just by walking by while your card stays in your purse or pocket. Pop-up ads that look like the programs you use on your computer have links on them that will download viruses and enable criminals to gain access to your passwords and credit card information.

While you may be most concerned about keeping your money safe, your personal information is just as valuable to these criminals. Identity theft is not just something you read about in books and see on the big screen, it is a very real problem. The Canadian government describes identity theft as “any false, deceptive, misleading or fraudulent act used to obtain someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes”.

Information criminals make use of:

  • Your full name and birthday
  • Your signature
  • Usernames and passwords
  • SIN number (of a person alive or dead), passport number, driver’s licence number
  • Credit card numbers, PINs, and expiry dates
  • Your address
  • Mother’s maiden name.

This information can then be used to make purchases, access bank accounts, open new bank accounts, transfer money, apply for loans and mortgages, credit cards, get passports, and obtain government benefits. Criminals especially like SIN numbers of those who are very young, as it would take years for it to surface that identity theft had occurred. It wouldn’t be until perhaps they go to get their first job, go to apply for a loan for university or a mortgage, or get a call from a collection agency for them to realize. It can affect you financially, your credit, your chances of getting a mortgage or loan. It is important to catch this behaviour as soon as possible, or better yet, prevent it!

Below are some recent examples of fraud in Canada and what we can take away from each example.

Recent examples of fraud:

Deutsche Bank: In October, 2017 one of our elderly members at ECU received, what looked like to her, an official email from Deutsche Bank where she has received her pension from for years. The email contained a photo of her, her address and phone number. She was told, in broken English, that she would not be able to access the funds in the account and her account would be deactivated unless she signed in and paid a number of fees totalling 4,655 GBP. She was asked to log into their website and access her account with a username and password that they provided along with a link in the email. The member did not question the email and unless the email had come to our attention she would have lost a lot of money. What to take away from this example: Never click on a link that an email provides for you in order to make a payment. Always use a fresh browser and type in the website yourself. If you let your mouse hover over the link or button for you to click you’ll see that the URL it is leading you to is likely too complicated and does not make sense.

CRA: On November 8th, 2017 it was reported that more than 40 people in York Region were targets of a Bitcoin tax scam. Over $300,000 were sent to the criminals claiming to be CRA employees. Police say that there has been a significant increase in CRA phishing scams as predators know that there is a certain anxiety about owing the CRA, and use this to their advantage. Another example of a recent CRA phishing scam experienced by a journalist for a major Canadian newspaper was an Interac e-transfer claiming to be from the CRA. All she had to do was click “accept” and log into her online banking. Luckily, the journalist knew her standing with the CRA and knew she was not owed money. What to take away from this example: Know your balance with the CRA. It is important to know if you owe them or if they owe you in order to not fall prey to a scam. The CRA will never send e-transfers, never ask for your personal information over email or text or ask you to click on a link. If you are ever unsure, call the CRA directly.

Netflix: A phishing scam email was sent to 110 million Netflix subscribers on November 6th, 2017 titled “Your suspension notification”. The email claimed that Netflix was unable to validate their billing information for their next billing cycle of their subscription and led subscribers to click on a link where it asks them to fill out personal information including credit card number in order for their subscription to remain active. It looked extremely legitimate with the Netflix logo and incorporated still photos of Netflix originals “The Crown” and “House of Cards” in order to make it look real. What to take away from this example: Never click on links an email sends you regarding an account you have. Always log into the website by typing in the address in a new browser.

Online Dating: Online romance scams are on the rise. You may think that in the age of Tinder and Bumble that it is millennials that fall prey to this, but it is actually people 50+ that are most commonly the targets of online romance scams. In 2016, 748 Canadians lost a total of $17 million, and in 2017, 56 victims in Alberta alone have lost a total of $3.6 million. The RCMP believe the number of victims is actually much higher, but that they feel too embarrassed to come forward. What to take away from this example: Protect your wallet as well as your heart. If someone professes their love for you before ever meeting, or says they are from a town near you but work overseas, take that as a red flag. Never send money to someone you’ve never met in person, even if they say they’re in trouble.

What you can do to protect yourself:

  • Check your bank accounts frequently to see if there are any suspicious transactions and if there are, call your financial institution as soon as possible to report it and cancel your card
  • Keep all personal information in a safe and secure place
  • Shred any paper, cards or mail that have personal information on them
  • Check your credit score regularly
  • Never write down passwords and PIN numbers
  • Never save usernames and passwords on your computer, smart phone or apps
  • Don’t open any suspicious emails or texts
  • Don’t click on links in an email, open a new browser and type in the URL yourself
  • If a company calls you asking for personal information say you’ll call them back and look up their number yourself
  • Contact the company, organization or person directly if something seems suspicious
  • Tell your friends/colleagues/family about any potential scams so that they are aware
  • Report anything suspicious to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre:

Following the tips above and incorporating them into your daily life can help save you a lot of hassle and a lot of money. Being aware of where personal information is shared and actively keeping yourself informed of new types of fraud as time goes on will go a long way in helping prevent you from unwittingly becoming a victim of fraud.

Author: NorthernBirchCU

A co-operative financial institution based out of Toronto, Ontario.

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