Financial Scams

Financial scams have been around for decades. But they have never been as common, insidious and invasive as they are today. The internet, smartphones, social media, online banking and countless other technologies have enabled fraudsters to invade people’s lives at an unprecedented rate — and trick them into handing over money, personal information and access to their personal electronic devices.

It’s easy to assume you’ll never fall for a scam. But we’re all vulnerable, and we can all become victims if we don’t know what to be aware of.

Let’s look at three common scams to understand what criminals are after, why they’re effective and how you can protect yourself or a family member from being a victim.

Tech Support Scams

It usually begins with a phone call. A scammer will claim you have a software issue on your computer and they have been alerted to provide technical support. First, they will request payment. Then they will ask you to install applications which will give them access to your computer so they can “fix” the issue.

However, what they’re really doing is accessing any personal data stored on your computer — and capturing any data you enter in the future, such as your login credentials for online banking and other websites.

A common variation of this scheme uses digital ads or pop-up windows online to lure you in. These will include error messages saying your computer isn’t functioning properly and to click through for a quick fix. This will lead you to a malicious website or chat form that requests payment, steals your information and installs the spyware on your computer.

Why it works

This scam preys on the victim’s lack of technology literacy. Computers display error messages all the time and many people struggle to determine which ones are real and which ones are not. The scammer amps up the pressure by warning there could be dire consequences for not addressing the issue immediately.

What to do

First, understand that your hardware, software or internet provider will never contact you to initiate a service conversation. If you have a computer issue, you must contact them.

Don’t give any personal or payment information over the phone. And never click any website links or advertisements displaying error messages or promises to ‘clean up’ your computer.

If you’re concerned your computer has already been compromised, inform your banks and credit card companies immediately. Follow their instructions to avoid any account or credit card hacking. Most major banks also have an in-app option to lock your credit or client cards, so you can immediately secure your accounts.

You may also have to consult with a legitimate tech support firm to remove the spyware and restore your computer to its original settings.

Email and Texting Scams

There are numerous text and email scams, but phishing is by far the most common and the most successful. Generally, this involves a scammer sending you a fraudulent communication disguised to look like it’s from a reputable source such as your bank or credit card company.

The communication will either say there’s a problem with your account or that you’ve received a payment and direct you to click a fraudulent link for more information. When you arrive at the fraudulent landing page, you’ll be prompted to enter your login credentials — which the scammers will then use to steal your personal and financial information.

Why it works

These communications are usually very simple, brief and professional looking. If they’re ‘from’ a business you deal with regularly, you may not notice anything’s amiss. Phishing schemes can easily fly under the radar with all the other digital messages and notifications you receive every day.

Scammers are also highly skilled at using your emotions against you. Be it the fear of losing money or excitement of potential windfall, they’re counting on you clicking now and thinking about it later.

What to do

Treat every unexpected communication like a potential phishing scheme until proven otherwise. Do not open attachments or click links contained in these texts or emails. If you are unsure if an email or text is legitimate, take the time to contact the purported sender through their primary contact channels to verify its validity.

If you’ve clicked on any links or provided your information, phone your bank or credit card company immediately to report the issue. They will cancel your cards and issue a new one as well as provide direction to secure your accounts.

Canada Revenue Agency Scams

There has been an ongoing surge in automated phone calls claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The messages usually claim you owe unpaid taxes and there is a warrant out for your arrest — or other intimidating phrasing to that effect. They will direct you to speak with a live agent who can take your credit card information to pay off the supposed tax debt.

Of course, this is not Canada Revenue Agency. There is no tax debt. And you’re not at risk of going to jail. But there are potentially thousands of dollars at stake if you’re not vigilant.

Why it works

It can be intimidating for anyone to get a message from the government — especially if you have outstanding taxes or don’t know where you stand with your tax filings or don’t know the general process for dealing with these types of matters. Serious threats frighten people into acting quickly and irrationally.

What to do

Hang up immediately. The Canada Revenue Agency rarely phones anyone. If they do, it will be always be about an established ongoing matter. And they will never use automated messaging or threatening tactics — nor will they ever request payment over the phone.

The same goes for email. The Canada Revenue Agency will only ever contact you by email to inform you of a new message on your MyCRA profile. They will not direct you to click any links, provide any personal information or request payment.

If you are concerned about your tax status, log in to your MyCRA profile to view all your notices of assessments, tax forms and legitimate communications from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Life-Changing Debt Solutions

Major financial scams can damage your credit, drain your lifelong savings and affect your future financial stability. If you have been a victim of a financial scam which you haven’t been able to recover from, there may be a solution to your debt problems.

Set up a Free Confidential Consultation with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to find out your options today. You may qualify for a Life-Changing Debt Solution such as Bankruptcy or a Consumer Proposal, which can help you become debt free within as little as nine months of your initial filing.

Don’t let shame and embarrassment prevent you from getting the help you need to move forward. Get on the road to the financial fresh start you deserve.