Financial fraud can hurt you

Every year, millions of Canadians are targeted by fraudsters no matter their age, education level, income, profession or ethnicity.

  • May. 13, 2014 4:00 p.m.

By Lucie Tedesco

Financial fraud is a growing problem in today’s world. Every year, millions of Canadians are targeted by fraudsters no matter their age, education level, income, profession or ethnicity.

Criminals are very creative and will adapt their tactics to ensnare potential victims. Identity theft, credit card fraud, real estate fraud, mass marketing fraud, or payment scams are all different types of frauds that you may encounter at some point in your day-to-day life.

Staying up to date on the latest scams will help you spot the red flags. For example, a telemarketer selling an investment with “High returns with little or no risk – guaranteed!” may be tempting. But if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

You may be urged to sign a contract without receiving answers to your questions about its terms and conditions. You’re just told that “It’s complicated. You don’t need to know the details.”

Peer pressure and sense of urgency are just some of the techniques that fraud artists use. If you experience any of these red flags, do not participate in the transaction.

For more tips on how to recognize the different types of fraud, take a look at the Competition Bureau’s Little Black Book of Scams.

What to do if you become a victim?

It’s easy to fall for a financial fraud, fraudsters are very convincing, they use legitimate sales tactics in their pitches and victims are often too embarrassed to report it. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.

If you’ve encountered or become a victim of fraud, report it immediately to the proper authorities such as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and your local police.

If you suspect that your identity or your accounts are at risk, you should also notify your financial institutions and Canada’s two credit bureaus immediately. Reporting fraud will help put a stop to it.

Keep in mind that your friends and family may end up being targeted by the same fraudster. Alert them of the potential threat. Talking about fraud can help you and those you care about stay safe.

Protecting your identity and your finances is essential to your safety and financial well-being.

As a general rule, always be cautious about how and with whom you share personal and financial information such as your address, date of birth, Social Insurance Number, credit card numbers or passwords.

This information can be used to steal your identity and commit financial fraud, which is why it’s important to take proper precautions to protect it.

Delete any email that asks for personal information. Burn or shred any mail or financial papers containing your personal information, never recycle them. Don’t carry ID with you that you don’t need.

You should also inspect your financial statements each month and check your credit report at least once a year for irregular or unauthorized transactions, or accounts you didn’t open.

Lucie Tedesco is the commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, an agency of the federal government.