Be a fraud-buster this month – and every month!
March 2, 2018
By Jane Rooney, Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader
Fraud takes many forms, including identity theft, debit and credit card fraud, and financial and investment fraud. The fact is anyone — from teenagers to grandparents to corporate executives — can be a target.
To mark this year’s Fraud Prevention Month, I’d like to talk about why it’s important to report fraud when it happens to you, or if you suspect someone of trying to commit fraud. And I’ll share some tips about how to report different kinds of fraud.
Thousands of Canadians lose millions of dollars to fraudsters every year. And yet, only 5% of fraud is reported to the authorities. The impact of fraud on families and businesses can be devastating. The best thing you can do is to report the fraud, whatever the amount, to the appropriate authorities. Don’t be embarrassed if you were taken in – you are not alone. By reporting it, you will help others avoid the same trap. And, in most cases, the financial institution will open an investigation and money may be returned to you.
Credit and debit card fraud are two of the most common forms of fraud - most of us know someone who has had to cancel a credit or debit card, not to mention other related hassles and stress. Protecting your personal identification number – your PIN - is a critical way to avoid fraud. If you suspect someone knows your PIN, contact your financial institution and change your PIN right away. You should also alert your financial institution immediately if you suspect a fraud, as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Also let them know of any suspicious correspondence that you receive regarding your account(s).
When contacting your financial institution, make sure to use the telephone number found on your account statement or on the back of your card. You can also complain about deceptive emails through the Spam Reporting Centre.
Financial scams often involve sales offers or promotions about financial products and services, such as pensions, managed investment funds, financial advice, insurance, or credit or deposit accounts. Investment scams often involve offers of very high returns, foreign currency trading, offshore investments, Ponzi schemes, or other investment schemes. Remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! You can report all these types of financial and investment scams to the Canadian Securities Administrators or your local securities regulator.
Identity theft can be devastating. It happens when somebody obtains your personal information without your knowledge or consent. Fraudsters often use this information illegally, usually for personal financial gain. This is known as identity fraud. If you suspect or know that you are a victim of identity theft or fraud, or if you unwittingly provided personal or financial information, you should:
- Contact your local police force and file a report
- Contact your financial institution, credit card company, and administrators of any other accounts that may be affected
- Contact the two national credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, and place a fraud alert on your credit reports
- Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
If you are the victim of fraud—meaning you have suffered a loss because of someone’s dishonesty or deception—you should always contact law enforcement, even if the amount involved isn’t significant. You should definitely contact the police if your property has been stolen or you’ve been threatened or assaulted by a scammer.
In the online information age, financial fraud is becoming more complex and more prevalent. It’s easy to be taken in. The good news is there’s lots of good information online about how to protect yourself. The Competition Bureau of Canada has an excellent handbook, The Little Black Book of Scams. You can also learn more by accessing the Government of Canada’s information about the different types of fraud.
And don’t forget: if you are targeted by a fraudster or scam, be a fraud-buster and report it!
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