Phishing, extortion and identify fraud were the top scams used by fraudsters last year to try to separate unsuspecting New Brunswickers from their money.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, New Brunswickers reported losing $1.4 million last year to frauds and scams. Because financial fraud is highly under-reported, the actual amount lost is likely higher. According to the 2017 Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) Investor Index for New Brunswick, seven-in-10 New Brunswickers who were approached by investment fraud did not report it.
“Every year, hundreds of New Brunswickers fall victim to fraud, losing thousands of dollars,” said Marissa Sollows, acting director of education and communications for the Financial and Consumer Services Commission. “Retirement savings, homes and sometimes businesses have been lost. The impact of fraud can be far reaching and devastating.”
“Unfortunately, victims are often too ashamed to report when they have lost money in a fraud,” she said. “Fraudsters count on this hoping you will not notify authorities. Every day you delay reporting fraud is one more day the criminal is free to spend your money and target others.”
Top among New Brunswick complaints to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre last year were phishing emails following by extortion and identity fraud. The most expensive frauds in 2017 were wire fraud, romance scams and prize fraud.
Here were the top frauds in 2017 based on data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre:
Total New Brunswick complaints: 185
Total New Brunswick victims: 76
Reported loss: The financial loss comes after the fact if the stolen personal information is used.
How it works: Scammers create email messages with links to fake web pages that look like the real sites. The scammer hopes you will click on the link and enter personal information, like PIN numbers, credit card numbers and bank account details, on the fake website.
Solution: Do not reply to the email or click on a link. Do not respond to emails from companies you do not know. If you have business with the company then contact them directly and ask if they sent you the link.
Total New Brunswick complaints: 163
Total New Brunswick victims: 12
Reported loss: $22,513.
How it works: The most prevalent form of extortion is ransomware targeting businesses. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks access to a computer until a sum of money is paid. It can also take the form of texts and phone calls from the Canada Revenue Agency or other government departments threatening to arrest or deport you if you do not pay back taxes or fees immediately. To reduce the chances that someone will recognize it and warn you that you are the target of a scam, the scammer requests you pay using a money transfer service like Western Union, a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin or a gift card like an iTunes gift card.
Solution: Do not respond to emails from companies you do not know or from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA does not demand payment using these tactics. Delete the email or text or hang up the phone. Contact the CRA directly if you have a tax concern.
Total New Brunswick complaints: 118
Total New Brunswick victims: 100
Reported loss: $69,310.
How it works: A fraudster uses your personal information to carry out fraud by obtaining credit in your name. You may be a victim if a creditor informs you it received your credit application, but you did not apply. Another red flag is if a collection agency informs you that they are collecting for a defaulted account in your name, but you never opened the account.
Solution: Protect your personal information. Be wary of unsolicited emails, telephone calls or mail attempting to extract personal or financial information from you. Check your credit reports, bank and credit card statements periodically and report any irregularities to your bank or credit card company.
Total New Brunswick complaints: 8
Total New Brunswick victims: 1
Reported loss: $761,902.
How it works: Businesses are often the targets of wire fraud. An employee authorized to make wire transfers receives an email from an address that appears to be from a senior executive in the company, or even a client. The fake email instructs that a payment be made immediately to an account. In the above case, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre was able to recover and return the funds to the New Brunswick victim after followup with the company, the financial institution and Interpol.
Solution: Beware of unsolicited emails presenting an urgent situation requiring immediate attention. Before making any such payments, make contact with the executive or the client to confirm the request is legitimate.
Total New Brunswick complaints: 18
Total New Brunswick victims: 9
Reported loss: $168,184.
How it works: Fraudsters create fake profiles on social media and online dating websites to lure potential victims into online relationships. Once they gain their trust, the fraudster begins making financial requests.
Solution: Exercise caution when looking for a relationship online. Never send money to anyone you meet online.
Total New Brunswick complaints: 62
Total New Brunswick victims: 15
Reported loss: $135,469.
How it works: You are notified you have won a lottery prize by telephone or mail. To collect your winnings, you are advised you must pay a fee to cover taxes or legal fees. No winnings are ever received.
Solution: Any unsolicited phone calls or mail advising you have won a prize in a foreign lottery are likely fake. Never pay fees to collect a prize.
“These are just some of the ways New Brunswickers are targeted,” said Sollows. “Fraud can come at you in many ways. The commission can help you learn to spot the red flags and stay out of fraud’s reach. Visit www.FCNB.ca/Fraud to learn more on how to protect yourself and how to report fraud.”
The Financial and Consumer Services Commission has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation that regulates the following sectors: securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Online educational tools and resources are available.