Scammers are generally after one of two things; they either try to steal your money immediately, or they try to steal your identity now, in order to steal money from you in the future.
In 2019, Canadian Better Business Bureaus (BBB) received almost 1,400 scam reports from consumers via BBB Scam Tracker with over $12 million in reported losses. Unfortunately, this is just a fraction of what Canadians lost. According to the Government of Canada, approximately nine out of 10 victims do not report fraud attempts. BBB stresses the importance of reporting these scams in order to prevent scammers from defrauding other unsuspecting victims.
For many scam victims, the loss of personally identifiable information is even worse than losing money, because it’s hard to recover and could lead to identity theft. This is especially true for teenagers and young adults who are the most vulnerable as they have a clean credit history. If fraudsters were to get a hold of their sensitive information, it could negatively impact their adult life and they may not be able to rent an apartment, buy a vehicle or get approved for any credit before having their records amended.
Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and are constantly coming up with new tactics to swindle victims out of their money and personal information. Research conducted in BBB’s “Cracking the Invulnerability Illusion” in 2016 shows that 69 per cent of scam victims were under the age of 45, and 78 per cent of victims held post-secondary degrees, showing that no one is invulnerable to scammers. Even more alarming is that nowhere is safe from them, either. Fraudsters can contact you through a telephone call or text, on social media or through your e-mail, and in many cases, they can appear to be legitimate.
If you are the victim of a scam, here are some steps you can take to try to protect your personally identifiable information and your accounts, as well as mitigate the long-term impacts of the scam.
Put a fraud alert on your credit reports and consider freezing your credit. This will prevent thieves from opening new lines of credit in your name and causing additional financial distress.
Request a free credit report to make sure that existing lines of credit haven’t been compromised.
Follow the advice given by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for protecting yourself from identity fraud and how to report it.
Monitor your accounts (banking, credit card, app payment services, etc.) at least weekly to make sure you recognize all the charges.
Keep an eye on your social media accounts. If the situation arose because you responded to an ad on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., report the ad or business and tell the social media channel what happened.
Change your password regularly, use a strong password that isn’t easy to guess, and don’t use the same one for multiple sites.
After you’ve taken care of yourself, please report the scam to BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) to help warn others and to provide additional information that may be useful to law enforcement.
Better Business Bureau Altantic’s
marketing and communications specialist