March 9, 2021 (Alberta) – To reach and help educate young Albertans, the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) is taking to a variety of social platforms during Fraud Prevention Month in March to encourage them to “take some time” before handing over their money.
Hot stock tips with false promises of guaranteed returns and work from home opportunities seem to be appearing almost daily in social media feeds, and investment scams among young people are on the rise. To meet young Albertans where they’re at with a humorous and empowering message, the ASC developed an Excuse Bot that provides valuable information in an engaging way.
The Excuse Bot helps young Albertans with funny, tongue-in-cheek excuses to get out of sticky situations, since most fraudsters use “now or never” urgency to trick people into investing. Often, young people are approached by people in their personal and social networks, also known as “affinity fraud,” with opportunities that seem almost too good to be true. The Excuse Bot connects young people to the ASC’s CheckFirst website where they can discover how to research and carefully consider any potential investment opportunity presented to them.
“We know there is a desire to make money quickly, especially given the higher rates of unemployment throughout Alberta,” said Hilary McMeekin, Director of Communications and Investor Education with the ASC. “During Fraud Prevention Month, the Excuse Bot will lead with a bit of humour, but ultimately show young people that with or without scams, taking time to learn how to protect yourself, doing your own research and getting as much information as possible before you invest can save money and headaches in the long run.”
Cynthia Campbell, Director of Enforcement with the ASC, also noted that, as social media and other online use increases, fraudsters are able to reach potential victims on a global scale.
“Online fraud is becoming more sophisticated and widespread and it’s not difficult to see how someone could feel enticed or pressured and fall prey to these scams. Be an investor, not a victim,” said Campbell. “Safely invest by learning and watching for the red flags of fraud.”
According to the 2020 Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) Investor Index Report:
- Fraud incidence is rising among those under 35.
- When asked if they’ve been approached about a possibly fraudulent scam, 23 per cent of 18-30 year olds in Alberta said yes.
- Forty-five per cent of Albertans between the ages of 18-30 have seen investment opportunities advertised on social media.
As part of our Fraud Prevention Month campaign, the ASC is also raising awareness about “do it yourself” investment sites. These sites can make it easy and affordable for young people to enter the stock market and they are often promoted on social media. The recent social-fueled market volatility is an example of the power online communities have in influencing financial decisions.
“We are seeing an increasing number of young people getting involved in the stock market and investing. This is great because investing can be part of a healthy financial future,” said McMeekin. “However, learning the proper steps to protect yourself is important. So before jumping in and acting on any advice and stock tips offered through social media, “take some time”, do your own research and check out checkfirst.ca. It provides a wealth of free, unbiased information.”
Albertans will be seeing #TakeSomeTime ads running on TikTok, Instagram, Reddit and Facebook throughout Fraud Prevention Month.