March is Fraud Awareness Month – Protect Yourself!

By Jane Rooney, Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader

March 13, 2017

Many of us are concerned about the risk of cybercrime and the growing need for consumers to be extra vigilant.

We are constantly on our phones and online, and fraudsters are always looking for new ways to lure people into sharing personal information so that they can get access to their accounts.

March is Fraud Prevention Month and a good time to educate yourself and reduce the chances of being a victim of financial scams.

Phone scam with new twist

Telephone fraud is not new, but it’s becoming increasingly sophisticated. The Better Business Bureau recently warned Canadians of a scam where fraudsters use voice recordings to try to dupe you into giving them money. The caller asks: “Can you hear me now?” This baits you into answering “yes” and the fraudsters then send a bill for something, such as trip or expensive product, using a doctored voice recording as evidence you said “yes” to the purchase.

The telephone scam originally targeted companies and is now hitting consumers. There have been some reports in Canada and it is widespread in the United States, according to anti-fraud agencies.

If you receive one of these calls, don’t say anything, hang up immediately, and report the call. It is also a good idea, in general, to always screen phone calls to avoid these types of scams.

If you think you have fallen into the “Can you hear me?” trap, contact your bank and credit card issuers to flag any possible misuse of your accounts, and notify the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Phishing messages

Phishing messages are another concern. Most of us have received phishing emails at some point. These can also appear on your phone as a text message.

Phishing scams attempt to get sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card or banking details. The messages appear to be from a trustworthy company, such as a telecommunications company or a bank. They might suggest you owe money, ask you to provide updated personal information, or try to get you to click on a link.

The good news is you can learn to spot the warning signs of fraud before you are taken in. Here are some warning signs of phishing emails:

  • The email may not be addressed directly to you, but may say something like "Dear customer".
  • The email has a sense of urgency and pressures you to act immediately.
  • When you click on the link, you are asked to provide your PIN or password online. No legitimate company would ask you to do this except on your regular log-in page.
  • There is no padlock or security lock icon on the log-in page indicating that it is a secure site.
  • The website address begins with "http" rather than "https" – the "s" stands for "secure."
  • There is no way to reply or contact the company directly.
  • The website address, email and website are not exactly the same as those of your financial institution.
  • Other links on the page may not work.
  • Often there are errors in spelling and grammar. (This is not always a red flag for fraud, but it should alert you to watch for other signs.)

If you receive a phishing message:

  • Do not give personal financial information by email.
  • Do not click on any of the links.
  • Do not enter personal financial information on a website unless you know it is secure and legitimate.
  • If in doubt, check the website address or contact the company using contact information you found yourself, not the information in the phishing message.
  • Delete the email.

Fraudsters are always looking for opportunities, so educate yourself and stay one step ahead. Don’t fall into their trap.

The Government of Canada has lots of information to help you recognize, prevent and report different types of fraud and scams.

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