March marks Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, an annual initiative spearheaded by the government’s Competition Bureau. The Bureau has released this year’s edition of The Little Black Book of Scams, an e-reference guide to the latest crop of fraud methods posing risk to unsuspecting Canadians.
Learn more about Fraud Prevention Month on Twitter with #FPM2016
The Stigma of Being Scammed
One interesting trend: despite the recognition that fraudsters can trick pretty much anybody, many consumers are too embarrassed to admit they’ve been duped.
To put in perspective, 95 per cent of fraud crimes go unreported, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
“That’s part of the reason we’re actively trying to educate people on how to avoid it,” says Dan Wilcock, assistant deputy commissioner of Fair Business Practices at the Competition Bureau.
Here’s a look at the top three emerging scam trends, and how consumers can protect themselves.
1. The World Wide Web of Deceit
“Scammers are using the internet in increasingly sophisticated ways to defraud Canadians of their money and personal information,” says Wilcock.
He points to techniques like malicious software, fake websites and online offers set up to rope in consumers.
The surreptitious practices will often try to trick consumers into clicking on a link or pop-up messages that will install the malware unbeknownst to them.
Avoiding falling into a scammer’s trap requires consumers to be vigilant and only open sources and click on links from people they know and trust.
2. Go Phish
Phishing scams – emails sent asking for information under the guise that they were sent from a bank or trusted business – have also evolved, often including logos, addresses, legalese and other elements to make them seem more legitimate.
“It’s not necessarily as easy to recognize a scam email as it once was,” he says. “They’re not littered with spelling mistakes and incomprehensible grammar.” It’s true that these emails are becoming increasingly sophisticated – even Money Wise Editor Penelope has received a shady email or two. (You can check out her tax fraud scam warning here!)
“We certainly suggest that if an email asks you to reply or visit a website to update and confirm certain information you’ve got to be skeptical about that,” says Wilcock. “Organizations like banks or government agencies will never ask you to send personal account information by replying to an email or clicking a link.”
3. Anti-Social Media
Social media scams are a rapidly emerging hotbed for fraudsters.
“Things like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest – these are wonderful tools that have become a daily part of our life but scammers see them as an opportunity to reach people in new ways and, ultimately, scam them in new ways,” he adds.
The challenge with social media is phony ads are indistinguishable from their real counterparts.
“The content often appears in the same place as your real friends and family so social media users may end up inadvertently promoting these scams by liking them or tweeting them or putting information about the product without stopping to think about it,” says Wilcock. “Unfortunately this can give the scams more credibility.”
He cautions consumers to watch for wording that touts money back guarantees, free trials and quick cancellation fees.
“Essentially, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he adds.
What You Can Do To End Scams
While the Competition Bureau is working to keep consumers on their toes the onus also falls on consumers to be savvy and shrewd when it comes to spotting frauds.
“With these emerging scams, and any scams, we encourage Canadians to recognize these things and to report them and help us and our law enforcement partners stop these scams,” he says.