Seven out of 10 Alberta residents feel they are being targeted by fraudsters more than ever, says a new survey from TD Bank Group.
Fifty-seven per cent of respondents from this province believe the rising cost of living and other financial hardships will expose them to more scams. Eighty per cent don’t have a high degree of confidence in their ability to detect fraud or scams. Both percentages are the highest among the country’s regions, says the survey released recently for February’s Fraud Prevention Month.
Nation-wide, 62 per cent feel they being targeted more than ever and nearly half (46 per cent) have not done anything in the past year to educate themselves about fraud.
More than half of Albertans (54 per cent) said they feel stressed or anxious about financial fraud, says the survey of 1,521 Canadians by Maru Public Opinion done Feb. 3-4, 2023.
Email and text messaging seems to be the most popular method for finding potential victims. Seventy-two per cent of respondents said they had been targeted through messaging or emails. That is up 14 per cent from last year.
Sixty-six per cent reported being targeted over the phone and 26 per cent were contacted through social media, down 10 per cent from a year ago.
“It’s very important to exercise caution, especially at a time when fraudsters may take advantage of the economic challenges many Canadians are currently facing,” said Mohamed Manji, TD vice-president of Canadian fraud management. “In addition to the robust security measures TD has in place for its customers, the best defence against financial fraud is being aware and knowing how to spot it.”
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says in the first month of 2023, 6,610 reports of fraud were received and there were 3,923 victims who collectively lost $43.6 million. In 2022, more than 57,000 victims across the country lost $531 million in total.
When asked to assess the factors that make Canadians more vulnerable to fraud, 43 per cent pointed to age, 35 per cent to loneliness or isolation, 34 per cent to being new to Canada and 32 per cent cited job loss or financial hardship.
“We’re seeing more fraudsters preying on customers through the ‘grandparent’ or ‘emergency’ scam,” says Manji. “This cruel crime is often successful because it exploits someone’s desire to care for their loved ones.
“If you get a call from somebody claiming to be a family member or friend in immediate need of funds, hang up the phone and call them back using a number you have for them.”
In 2022 alone, Alberta RCMP received more than 150 reports of so-called “emergency scams” with a total loss of around $750,000. Not only is there a concern for the amount of money being lost, but a great concern for these couriers showing up in person to collect the cash.
Also troubling is the stigma that surrounds being victimized by fraudsters. One in three survey respondents said they would not tell anyone if they were scammed. Younger Canadians are even more reluctant to admit being taken, with 66 per cent of Millennials (born 1981-1996) and Gen Z (born 1997-2013) admitting they would keep quiet about being swindled.
RCMP have been raising awareness about fraud as part of March prevention activities. Police warn people to keep personal information private and always remember businesses do not ask for banking information by phone. To check a website, enter the URL into a search engine and look for the secure icon on the search bar.
Some tipoffs a website may be illegitimate are spelling mistakes and awkward phrasing. As well legitimate sites, will have links to emails, phone numbers, live chats and addresses.
Those who think they may be getting scammed can check the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online at www.antifraudcentre.ca. Frauds should be reported to police or to the centre.