Mark Fraud Prevention Month by taking stock of safeguards


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Canadians know fraudsters are trying to separate them from their money.

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Canadians know fraudsters are trying to separate them from their money.

The problem is there is so much spam, phishing, phone scams and countless other iterations of this growing crime, we’re having trouble keeping pace.

And that leaves folks feeling uneasy.

“Canadians feel they’re being targeted more than ever from fraud and scams,” Sophia Leung, senior vice-president and head for protect platform at TD Bank Group.

A recent survey by the big bank — just in time this March for Fraud Prevention Month — found Manitobans and Saskatchewan residents lead the nation with 71 per cent of respondents feeling they are being targeted by fraudsters more than ever.

What’s more, the current economic conditions are making them potentially more vulnerable with more than one in two respondents believing financial hardship will expose them to more fraud.

Recent data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre shows they’re onto something. It received fraud and cybercrime reports totalling an estimated $530 million last year, a 40 per cent increase from 2021.

One reason for fraud’s growth is that fraudsters are constantly honing their schemes, Leung notes.

“If you look at the most common type of fraud we’re seeing right now, they are donation scams, false emergency scams and investment scams,” she says.

Preying on people’s desire to help, their financial desperation in the case of investment scams, promising outlandish returns, or let’s not forget, a longing for love (i.e., romance scams) is hardly new.

Yet social media and other online avenues offer criminals greater access to our personal data, helping make their fake pitches all the more convincing.

It’s getting to the point where it’s hard to tell whether you’re being contacted by a legitimate organization or not.

Even prevention tips are now confusing. The federal government, for example, cautions in its Little Black Book of Scams that people should not give out personal information like their credit card data when being contacted by a charity.

But how many times has a real charity contacted you to donate by phone or door-to-door, essentially complete strangers asking you to provide credit card information?

This lack of confidence in who you’re talking to will only get worse now that artificial intelligence (AI) tools are becoming commonplace. Already, scammers are using AI in emergency scams to mimic voices of loved ones on the phone claiming to need money for help. Or they’re using AI photo generators to build better fake profiles on dating sites for romance scams.

In many cases, we may not even know we’re getting scammed, unless we actually look for it line by line in our statements, says Natasha Macmillan, director of everyday banking at

“That’s why you should always review your transactions on your credit card statements monthly if not even sooner,” she says.

If you do find suspicious transactions, notify your credit card provider ASAP.

“You usually have about 30 to 60 days after a statement to dispute a transaction,” Macmillan says, noting most financial institutions will reimburse you.

Often the inappropriate transactions are small and easy to miss.

“The last time my wallet was stolen, the charges were $50 at a gas station, $100 at Walmart and those can easily blend into the credit card statement,” she says.

And if you’re not sure if you’ve lost your credit card or it’s been stolen, you can put a temporary hold on it so it cannot be used.

“My husband often thinks he’s lost his wallet, and 90 per cent of the time, it’s lost within our house, so we call to put a hold on it just to be safe until he finds it,” she says.

That said, we’re not alone in the fight against fraud. Financial companies are stepping up their game too, putting in place protective measures, including suspicious transaction notifications that come with apps like TD’s MySpend.

“We have fraud alerts where we send clients a text to let them know of suspicious account activity,” Leung says.

There is also a lot of behind-the-scenes prevention going on, says a leading transaction technology provider called Adyen.

This Dutch multi-national — which most Canadians have never heard of — provides payment infrastructure for companies and it has extensive fraud detection technology.

“Anytime you would buy a jacket by Moose Knuckles in a store or online, that’s the moment we pick up card details and we facilitate the payments A to B,” says Sander Meijers, Canadian manager for Adyen.

“That comes with risk management, securely taking the money from your account to Moose Knuckles’ account within milliseconds.”

Adyen’s fraud detection tools help merchants determine whether risky transactions — like an e-commerce purchase for a dozen Louis Vuitton bags to be shipped to the other side of the planet — is legitimate or not.

Inevitably, Meijers adds, some fraudsters will be successful in using stolen credit card information to make a purchase.

Even so, as a consumer, you’re generally not liable, he says.

Well, under federal law, your maximum liability is $50. But most major providers — Visa and Mastercard — will not charge you at all.

After all, these companies, banks and credit unions want consumers and businesses to have confidence that they can transact securely, or the whole system falls apart, says Leung.

Still, she notes consumers must remain vigilant, doing their best to protect their personal data. And when they do believe they have fallen victim to fraud, they should report it — despite the stigma of being fooled.

“By reporting it, you help other people avoid falling for the scam too,” Leung says.

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