A recent report by TD revealed that 72% of Canadians have encountered scam attempts through email, text messages or phone calls in the past year. This is especially concerning given the current uncertain economic conditions and rising cost of living.
So, what can you do to protect your finances?
While completely stopping scams is a challenging task, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to them by staying aware. From phony Amazon alerts to fake loans, below are four scams that Canadians should be on the lookout for this holiday season.
Amazon Purchase Scam
One recent report stated that for every $10 spent online in Canada, $4 goes straight to Amazon. This makes scams related to the platform even more convincing for the unwary. The most popular involves an unexpected email or automated phone call about a pending high-ticket purchase, like a laptop or premium phone, set to process within 24 hours.
Here's the catch: the message provides a toll-free number for any concerns regarding the purchase. Once you call that number, the scammers will ask you to confirm your account details. Subsequently, with your info in hand, these scammers can hijack your account and go on a shopping spree. When in doubt about a purchase, log in and check your account directly; never give your details to a stranger.
One-Time Password (OTP) Scam
What makes this scam particularly devastating is that victims find it much harder to reclaim their losses. Why? Because in falling for the scam, they inadvertently bypass standard security measures.
In the most common version, you receive a call, email or text message claiming there is an urgent problem with your bank account. To "confirm your identity," the scammer will use the forgot password feature on your online banking. This sends you a one-time password. The moment you share that password, thinking you're helping sort things out, the scammer gains full access to your account, and, in no time, your funds vanish.
Again, when in doubt, your first course of action should be to log in and personally check your account.
‘Help Me’ Scam
The 'help me' scam has historically affected elderly Canadians, but with advancements in AI voice cloning technology, individuals from all demographics are now at risk. The scam operates as follows: a victim receives a call or message, seemingly from a close friend or relative, who claims to be in immediate danger requiring financial assistance. They often emphasize secrecy, urging the victim not to discuss the situation with anyone.
Here's the dark twist: Scammers can easily gather sufficient details online to make their fabricated stories appear credible. If a victim is deceived and completes the transaction, recouping the funds becomes exceedingly challenging. Since the transfer is made willingly by the victim, banks and authorities often struggle to assist. As a simple solution, consider having a family safe word that would be impossible for an impersonator to know.
‘Upfront Fee’ Loan Scam
Phony loan scams are on the rise, with 'upfront fee' scams being particularly prevalent. They are extremely effective because they generally appear legit, albeit suspiciously convenient.
They target borrowers searching for financing online, offering guaranteed loans tailored to the exact amount they're seeking. Generally, there's an urgency attached, and the borrower must make a nominal administrative payment to confirm the loan.
The harsh reality: Neither the loan nor the company is genuine. Victims essentially hand their money over to scammers, who then vanish with the funds. Remember, if a situation seems too good to be true, it's crucial to thoroughly research it before proceeding.
How can Canadians actively mitigate the risk of being scammed?
AI and automation have made scams more common and advanced, but you can still safeguard yourself! Here are a few simple strategies to consider:
- Always exercise due diligence before committing to any online transactions.
- Keep your family well informed.
- Keep your passwords safe, ensuring the ones you choose are unique and complex.
- Remain vigilant.