Thousands of Canadians are victims of fraud every year. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, over 67,000 Canadians reported an incident of fraud in 2020. In addition, a recent Statistics Canada report showed that over 40% of Canadians experienced a cyber security incident since the COVID-19 pandemic started, with phishing attacks, malware and hacked accounts being the most common types of fraud.
Phone scams are a very popular ‘phishing’ activity and it’s not just the vulnerable who fall victim to these scams. As a valued BrokerLink customer, we want to ensure that you are aware and prepared in the event that you are targeted by a fraudster. Rest assured, you may always confirm your BrokerLink insurance advisor’s credentials before discussing any policy information or payment details over the phone, by calling the branch directly. In addition, emails and any other communication received from BrokerLink or your insurance company will include the company’s legal name, logo and a legitimate contact phone number which you may call to validate.
Keep reading to learn how you can avoid being a phone scam victim by identifying how somebody is trying to scam you.
1. Phone Scammers Use Impersonation
An impersonation scam occurs when a caller pretends to be someone you would otherwise trust. This is also called phishing or social engineering. For example, a caller claims to be a friend or family member who needs money from you right away. You may notice that their voice sounds different but when you call them out on it, they blame it on illness or a bad phone connection. If you’re suspicious, trust your gut and find a way to prove they say who they are or hang up.
A scammer may also pretend to be calling from a reputable organization or business that you are familiar with, and try to sell you something or claim that you owe money. Common Canadian phone scams in this category include:
- Callers claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency
- Air duct cleaning companies
- False charities
- Prize winner calls
- Tech support – a scammer may claim your computer has been infected with a virus
Remember: You should be suspicious anytime an unsolicited caller asks you for payment – especially in the form of pre-paid gift cards or Bitcoin.
For a complete list of common phone scams affecting Canadians, visit the Anti-Fraud Centre website.
2. Phone Scammers Use Extreme Circumstances
A scammer may call and claim that some sort of emergency requires your immediate attention, for example, your computer is at risk of contracting a virus or they’re claiming to be calling on behalf of a relative or friend who is in both financial trouble and in danger, and they need you to send money right away. A common version of this last example is someone posing as a grandchild calling an elderly person for money; saying they’re in trouble and they don’t want to call their parents.
Another extreme situation could be a threat that your power or phone will be cut off unless you pay up. What could be happening in this case? Attackers will often take advantage of current events such as natural disasters, pandemics or political changes to scare you.
3. Strange Payment Requests
Scammers will often request unusual forms of payment, such as gift cards or they may ask for payment in the form of a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. Both types of payment are difficult to trace. You should be suspicious immediately when faced with any unsolicited call that asks for unusual payments. Practice due diligence before committing to any form of payment. Scams should also be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Trust Your Instincts
Phone scams are becoming more frequent. With the right amount of caution, education and vigilance, you can avoid being a victim of fraud by following these tips:
Don’t be afraid to say no! Fraudsters often use high-pressure sales tactics. If you feel uncomfortable, simply walk away or hang up the phone.
Do your research, for example:
- Check to see that charities calling are registered with Canada Revenue Agency.
- Verify a call from your credit card company by calling the number on the back.
- Find a way to confirm the identity of a caller who says they know you – trust your instincts!
- Research companies by looking them up online.
Don't give out personal information. If you receive an unsolicited call, hang up if they ask for your:
- Date of birth
- Social insurance number
- Banking or credit card information
The following organizations offer additional support: