Feb 25, 2021 – March marks the 17th annual Fraud Prevention Month in Canada. To commemorate the event, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) released a list of suggestions and advice they suggest Canadians should heed as fraud cases continue to surge across the country.
More Canadians are working and shopping from home, and are spending more time online since the onset of the pandemic last March, which resulted in a drastic uptick in online scams. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reported an increase in fraud cases ranging from romance scams to real estate scams. Between March 6, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021, the CAFC cited 4,833 reports of fraud in Canada in January alone; 3,313 of whom fell victim to the scams which resulted in a total loss of $10.1 million. In 2020, the CAFC reported a total of 68,452 reports of fraud in 2020; 40,612 fell victim and amounted to a total of $106.4 million in losses.
“With our lives increasingly being lived online due to COVID-19’s new world, it’s more important than ever for Canadians to be diligent, on alert and safeguarding their private information.”
Some fraudsters are also using COVID-19 as a cover to launch new underhanded schemes. CAFC cited a total of 11,502 Canadian reports of COVID-19 fraud have occurred, with 9,797 falling victim to it amounting to $7 million dollars in losses.
A recent survey conducted by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) also revealed nearly three in four Canadians (73 per cent) have been targeted by fraudsters. The CPA Canada 2021 Annual Fraud Survey was conducted through an online questionnaire from Jan. 19 – 28, 2021 and was completed by a total of 2,014 randomly selected Canadian adults. It found that one in three respondents reported falling victim to fraud at some point in their lives but 62 per cent have reported doing more to prevent themselves from being a victim of fraud than they were five years ago.
“Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting Canadians, therefore, vigilance in protecting yourself is essential,” said Doretta Thompson, CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader. “With our lives increasingly being lived online due to COVID-19’s new world, it’s more important than ever for Canadians to be diligent, on alert and safeguarding their private information.”
In light of these recent reports, CPA Canada began offering a list of top fraud-prevention tips. Suggestions are as follows:
- Be careful when conducting online activities: According to the survey, more than half of respondents (52 per cent) are concerned about the online businesses they deal with being vulnerable to cyberattacks. In cases where it’s necessary to provide personal information, it’s important to only do so on secure websites, which 70 per cent of respondents are already doing. An easy way to check if a website is secure is by looking for the padlock icon in your web browser – if it is locked, the website is secure.
- Protect your passwords: Password protection remains an area for improvement for many Canadians, as 51 per cent of survey respondents opt to memorize their passwords. It’s important to store passwords in a secure place and to shred all documents containing personal information, which 75 per cent of the survey participants reported doing.
- Do not respond to calls and texts from unrecognized numbers: Since telemarketing fraud remains one of the most common types, it’s important to screen calls and texts from unknown numbers. According to the survey, 38 per cent of respondents reported answering calls from unrecognized numbers. Text messages are much easier to screen, with just over one in ten (11 per cent) respondents replying to texts from unknown numbers.
- Monitor your credit card and banking transactions: It’s important to review and track your banking and credit card transactions at least once a month to monitor for illegitimate activities. While about eight in ten respondents (82 per cent) already review their transaction history on a monthly basis, only 39 per cent have set up text or email alerts for banking and credit card transactions, which can help them catch fraudulent activity right away.
For more information on the survey, visit cpacanada.ca/fraud2021 and to stay up to date on the recent CAFC data, visit https://antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm.