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Three scams to watch for and how to avoid falling victim

Three scams to watch for and how to avoid falling victim

Synopsis
3 Minute Read

More sophisticated methods and technology have changed how Canadians are being scammed. Learning what to keep an eye out for can make all the difference.

Partner, National Leader – Digital Forensics

Unfortunately, scams and fraud are not a new phenomenon. Most Canadians are familiar with the recent and prolific CRA telephone scam or the countless email phishing schemes but as technology continues to transform society, more sophisticated methods are cropping up.

Knowing about the types of scams out there doesn’t necessarily protect you from them, nor does it equip you with the tools needed to spot a complex and dangerous scam before you fall victim to it.

Every year the amount of money Canadians lose to scams – both online, in person, and over the phone, increases at an alarming rate. In 2022, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received fraud and cybercrime reports totalling $530 million in victim losses – representing a nearly 40 percent increase over 2021.

With more opportunities for scammers to take advantage than ever before, and more people falling victim each year, it’s vitally important to be aware of the ways in which criminals might try to take advantage of you and your loved ones through fraudulent activities.

Scams to look out for

While there are countless scams and fraud schemes out there, here are a few that remain or are becoming more popular and have the possibility to create serious consequences, both financial and emotional:

  1. Romance: Online dating is not new, but the ways in which nefarious individuals have contrived to take advantage of romantic opportunities over the web is growing. Romance scams involve an individual feigning romantic attention towards a victim to gain their affection and trust before using that favour to request money from the victim. These kinds of scams often turn into various other types of scams, including investment or emergency scams or identity theft, among others.
  2. Investment: Investment scams may look different, but each involve an individual promising significant returns on a certain company or initiative to a victim in order to access money either as a one-time scam or as a long-term venture. In addition to a typical investment scam, some scammers may take advantage of a victim through an investment scam and then follow up pretending to be an investigation company looking into the people behind the original scam the victim fell for. They may request money up front as part of the investigation and promise you’ll get your initial investment, and sometimes more, back in return. Often, these two parties are either one in the same or are working together to get more of your money.
  3. AI voice cloning: As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes more prolific in daily life, deepfake videos and voice cloning are gaining popularity and prevalence. When it comes to scams, cloning someone’s voice is not as difficult, even for the layman, as it sounds. Free software that can be found with a simple google search make recreating someone’s voice to say what you want it to say is shockingly accessible. Scams that involve voice cloning are often looking for “ransom” to help a loved one who claims to be in trouble. These kinds of scams can be extremely upsetting and, by design, leave the victim wanting to act fast to get their “loved one” the money they need to get out of the situation they’re in.

Red flags to look for if you think you might be getting scammed

When it comes to how to spot a scam while it’s happening, it’s best to trust your gut. Would-be scammers are experts at emotional manipulation and blackmail. If something feels off to you, it’s best to dig a little deeper.

Here are a few red flags to watch for:  

  • Pressure: Criminals will often pressure victims into making quick decisions. Whether that’s sending money or giving access to your data or computer right now, take a minute to fully assess the situation before making a decision.
  • Accusations: In many scams, the scammers intimidate victims with accusations of potential criminal activity and by pretending to be in positions of authority. They then tell the victim that they need to comply to demands of providing information to the “investigators”.
  • Money up front: Particularly in the case of the “investigation” into investment fraud, be very wary of being asked to send money up front.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is: Promises to double, triple, or quadruple your money in six months may seem unbelievable and they likely are. Such high level of return so quickly isn’t realistic and should be questioned.
  • Using encrypted chat apps to do business: Emails and written forms of communication are more reliable though they can still be used in fraud schemes and you must act with caution.
  • Asking for remote access to your computer: There are few instances where someone would need remote access to your computer, especially someone you don’t know well. Be aware that a significant amount of your personal information – including your location, banking data, and other identifying information – lives on your computer and can be stolen in seconds.

How to prevent becoming the victim of a scam

There’s nothing wrong with being a trusting person but knowing when to trust and who to trust can mean the difference between falling victim to a scam or not.

Here are a few things to do if you suspect someone may be trying to scam you:

  • Slow down: Take a minute. No legitimate professional or organization is going to pressure you to make a decision or a payment immediately; and if they do, be cautious and get a second opinion if you can.
  • Do your due diligence: Sometimes even a simple google search can help you determine if a would-be scammer’s claims are factual or fake. Is the company you’re being pressured to invest in real? Can you verify the identity of the person you’ve been chatting with online? Research this kind of information as much as you can before sending anyone your money.
  • Speak with a financial advisor or someone you trust: If you’re wondering if a financial move is the right one or not, it doesn’t hurt to seek the advice of a professional. Similarly, speak with a family member or loved one to get their opinion. Sometimes an extra set of eyes on a situation can allow you to see it in a new light. If you are being accused of being part of a crime, speak to local law enforcement or a lawyer for advice.
  • Set up a family password: In the AI voice cloning example, it could be helpful to have a word or phrase that only your family knows to help determine if you’re really speaking with them or with a scammer. You could also ask verifying questions that only they would know to confirm their identity over the phone.
  • Do no provide personal information: Scammers will pressure you to provide personal information such as your date of birth, address and more. Do not provide any personal information without consulting with someone you trust first.

Being scammed is a violation. It feels like you’ve been bested and can be difficult to admit to or get help rectifying the situation.

MNP advisors can help in a number of ways if you or a family member have been the victim of financial scam. Whether that’s investigating the situation or working to uncover the identity of those responsible, there are ways you can get support during a difficult time.

Contact us

To learn more, contact Ryan Duquette, Partner, National Leader – Digital Forensics.

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