$70 Million Lost to Scammers in Canada Last Year, ID Theft Expected to Increase

6 April 2015

The results are in: 2014 was a banner year for scammers and fraudsters across Canada. The amount of money that Canadians lost to scams jumped last year to $70 million, $17 million more than in 2013.

According to Evan Kelly of the Better Business Bureau of British Columbia, the bulk of these scams took place online. Fake charity scams were rampant in 2014 as global disasters provided opportunities for scammers to cash in on people looking to do good.

“We had 100 fake Ebola donation websites. And we had one fake site that said it was trying to raise money for the child of the soldier who was killed in Ottawa,” Kelly told Metro News Canada.

The Better Business Bureau doesn’t verify the legitimacy of charities, but if you have suspicions about a charity that you’re considering donating to, you can contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to see whether it is registered with the government. If not, you’re better off saving your money for a more clearly legitimate organization. Many fraudulent charity websites ask for credit card numbers for donations, which can then be used for credit card fraud in the future.

Phishing was another top source of financial losses this year. Online scammers are developing more sophisticated ways to duplicate the websites of well-known organizations in order to gain people’s trust, then steal their credit card numbers and personal information. During tax season, make sure not to fall victim to fraudulent emails supposedly coming from the CRA. Even if the email uses the official CRA letterhead, it’s probably a phishing scam if it requests that you enter personal information or click on a link to access your refund. The CRA never asks for information online and will not include personal information in an email or on an answering machine.

Moreover, this wave of fraud isn’t expected to end anytime soon. Financial and security experts predict that fraud will continue to rise throughout 2015 due to increasingly complex online scams.

Daniel Williams, a senior call-taker supervisor at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), told Metro News, “Over the last few years we have seen a sharp increase in digital skullduggery. The Internet has helped scammers get information from consumers a lot cheaper and easier. Right now, the sky is the limit.”

Of the top 20 types of fraud, 11 are committed over the internet, according to statistics collected by the CAFC. The number one fraud is the “Microsoft scam”, in which computer owners are convinced to give fraudsters posing as Microsoft tech workers access to their computer. The scammers claim that they need this access to fix a computer error, then mine victims’ computers for personal and financial information once they have it.

A newer type of fraud on the rise involves scammers impersonating company officials or employees and sending emails to other employees at the same company. Since most people don’t think twice about opening an email from their boss or colleague, scammers are able to get an “in” when they might otherwise be denied. The most dangerous form of this scam occurs when fraudsters attempt to access company accounts by emailing the company’s financial officers and claiming to be an executive who needs to deposit money.

Mail theft is also an increasing concern for many Canadians, as new community mailboxes have proven much less secure than they were intended to be. Stolen mail makes it easy for criminals to commit identity theft using the personal information present in medical and financial forms mailed to victims.

If you’re concerned about fraud, signing up for a credit monitoring service can help by allowing you to track certain types of account activity.