Friday, November 5, 2021

Being a victim of financial fraud can be devastating and is on the rise. With fraudsters finding new ways to target vulnerable populations, via phone, email or cybersecurity attacks, we need to be more diligent than ever before when on the lookout for common financial scams.

In response to this new reality, we have an obligation as a community to reduce the stigma surrounding financial scams, moving past blame and working towards education and support.

Targeting both young and old, financial fraud is a pressing issue across the country.

Adding to the issue, those who remain isolated due to COVID-19 or with little daily interaction with others have less support from family and friends and limited contact with financial advisors who can help raise awareness of emerging risks.

More needs to be done to address these common financial scams, raise awareness and help each other stay alert and prepared to act if you or a loved one becomes a target of financial scam.

Latest Scams

Everyone should be aware of the latest scams so they can best recognize them if targeted. Some of the most common financial scams include:Password Jacking: Supposed financial representatives calling to provide you financial information guarded by a password or PIN number, meaning the victim would offer up their password or PIN to the fraudster. Social Engineering: Tricking the victim into providing the answers to their security questions by impersonating a pharmacy employee, who is updating customer information. Romance Scams: Often starting in online chat forums or platforms, fraudsters are building romantic relationships and taking advantage of the individual by requesting money. Phishing: Email impersonations that seem like they are coming from a colleague, friend or loved one. These emails are often labelled as urgent and lead to the fraudster requesting money transfers.

Additional scams include posing as Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) agents seeking Bitcoin, gift cards or money transfers, manipulating their caller identification or reaching out from overseas requesting money transfers with promises to repay the loan tenfold.

“Our financial advisors would never call and ask you for your password or PIN number,” says William Scott, Director of Enterprise Risk Management at YNCU. “We will, however, do our due diligence. When we sense one of our members might be targeted by a scam, we lead with empathy, ask questions and support them every step of the way to prevent a scam from taking place.”

Let’s Talk Prevention

To reduce the risk of falling victim to a financial scam, we recommend the following:

  • Always fact check: Whether the person on the other line claims to be your pharmacy, financial institution, local police or CRA representative, we recommend politely disconnecting the call. Next, using the phone number you usually use to contact the corresponding party, call them to inquire about the call you have just received.
  • Ask questions: If something does not seem right, no matter how mundane, call your financial institution and seek their advice. There are no stupid questions when it comes to your financial wellbeing.
  • Put your ego aside: I repeat, ask as many questions as you’d like to ensure you have not been a victim of financial fraud.
  • Pay attention and stay calm: Fraudsters take advantage of the distracted and use urgency to take advantage of their victims. Stop what you are doing and focus on the email or call to ensure you are alert and can catch on to any red flags.
  • Seek education: Knowledge is power. Take a minute to pick up the phone and chat with your financial advisor. Get to know them. Ask them questions and find out what the latest scams are and how you can be prepared. We also recommend doing your own research and staying up to date on local news.

Along with the above, avoid sharing personal information. Do not carry your passwords with you, whether that be storing them on your phone or keeping them in your purse or wallet and always trust your instincts.

“Prevention is key. One of my best pieces of advice is to ask yourself ‘Why?’ before revealing any information,” says Russ Voutour, Chief Information Officer at YNCU. “Why is your local pharmacy asking you personal questions? Organizations rarely, if ever, call to update your information. Why is your family member emailing you for financial help when they would typically call or text? Question everything, reach out to your local financial institution and remember, you are not alone if you need support.”

If you think you have been targeted by a financial scam, report it to your financial institution immediately. The representative will guide you through your next steps, ensure you are not alone and involve the police or additional parties as necessary.

With greater awareness, we can all work together to stop financial fraud before it happens and reduce the stigma for those impacted.

For additional support and information, reach out to your home branch anytime. Together, we can protect our community against financial scams.

To stay up to date on the latest financial scams, check out the Canada Anti-Fraud Centre website for an extensive list of scams to be aware of.

Archie Bonifacio, senior executive, author and academic, is the Chief Member Experience Officer at YNCU and a Sessional Lecturer at the Lang School of Business and Economics.