Because consumers find it more difficult online or over the telephone to verify exactly who they are dealing with, the 18th annual Fraud Prevention Month campaign for March 2022 focuses on impersonation tactics.
The pandemic has increased the amount of and dependency on online and telephone purchasing and service interactions by most consumers – a trend that may continue indefinitely. As a result, fraudsters continue to take advantage of this, and have found success engaging in impersonation to either steal money or personal information.
As in previous years, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Competition Bureau are collectively leading the campaign. And, also, as in previous years, efforts are primarily using online resources, including the #FPM2022 social media hashtag for sharing information, rather than in-person information sessions.
CAFC figures suggest that $379 million was lost to scams and fraud in 2021, an increase of 130% over 2020. However, CAFC also notes that as few as 5% of fraud losses are reported.
Materials released at the start of the campaign include details of some of the most prevalent fraud methods that capitalize on the inability of consumers to verify who is on the other side of online transactions. These include:
Crypto investment scams in which fraudsters offer fake investment opportunities – often with gaudy potential profits highlighted. Victims download a trading platform and transfer cryptocurrency into their trading account, but cannot withdraw their funds. Investment scams were the top source of reported fraud in 2021.
In extortion scams, consumers and businesses are contacted by fraudsters posing as Canada Revenue Agency, police, border security, bank employees and others, claim that the victim’s identity has been used and extract the same identity information in the exchange. Some include phone calls that ask victims to dial 1 to speak with an officer immediately.
Emergency “grandparent” scams involve contacting seniors and claiming that a grandchild or other family member was in an accident, or charged with an offence. They seek immediate payment for a supposed bail, or fine or accident and arrange for a transfer or cash collection in order for the family member to avoid jail.
Phishing involves using mass email campaigns that appear to be from reputable retailers or government agencies with special offers or notices “attached” to the email. When the victim downloads the attachment, malware is loaded that makes it easy for fraudsters to steal log in credentials, passwords and other personal information.
Spear phishing is a more targeted variation in which the fraudsters first gain some information about the targets, then send a more personalized enticement to steal money or identity information.
Leading posters in the first week at #FPM2022 include the Competition Bureau, CAFC, Get Smarter About Money (an Ontario Securities Commission initiative), as well as regional police forces, and many bloggers.
Victims of fraud or cybercrime are encouraged to contact their local police and CAFC via its online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.