Have you received a scam call (or two, or three) today? Most of us are familiar with these annoying calls, which try to fool us with a variety of ruses and threats.
For the past several years, scammers posing as the Canada Revenue Agency, collection agencies, police, courts, banks, cybersecurity experts and other sources have attempted to intimidate and harass individuals and businesses into giving them money. They may claim, for example, that the target owes “back taxes” and will face fines or jail time if they don’t pay immediately. To make matters worse, scammers often target vulnerable people, including newcomers and seniors.
Public awareness of phone and other scams is rising, but fraudsters are also becoming more sophisticated. The RCMP recently issued a warning about a Bitcoin-related scam, for instance, and many scammers are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March 6, 2020, and January 31, 2021, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received over 11,500 reports of COVID-19 fraud, and a total of 9,797 people lost $7 million. Examples of pandemic scams include counterfeit vaccines, unapproved drugs, miracle cures, malicious apps, unauthorized tests, fake fundraisers, and fake or deceptive ads for in-demand products such as hand sanitizer.
Fraudsters can be highly convincing. Most of us like to think we wouldn’t fall for a scam, but no one is immune. In 2020, for all types of fraud, over 40,000 Canadians lost a total of $106.4 million. The true losses are likely much higher, since the majority of fraud incidents are never reported. Becoming better informed about phone scams and other types of fraud is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Here’s what you need to know.
In December 2019, Canadian telecom providers implemented systems to block suspicious, unsolicited phone calls, such as those from numbers over 15 digits long, and numbers that can’t be called (for example, 000-000-0000). This is a positive step, but no tech intervention can prevent all phone scams, including “spoofed” numbers. For this type of ruse, scammers disguise their identity by displaying the phone numbers of real organizations (such as government departments) on your caller ID. Another common trick is to use a fake number whose first six digits resemble those of your number, to make you think it’s a local call (scammers typically perpetrate their schemes from overseas).
Here are some steps you can take to fight back against scammers, as well as telemarketers who don’t follow the rules:
If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to the police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Reporting fraud helps the authorities understand what’s happening. You may feel embarrassed, but remember that you’re not alone.