7 ways to avoid financial scams

Financial scams have been around for decades, but in the age of the Internet, they’re becoming even more common. Thanks to technology, criminals can now attempt to scam you from anywhere in the world – they don’t have to be local. And they’re getting smarter about it too, by finding new and creative ways to trick unassuming people into providing sensitive information. It’s now becoming increasingly difficult to weed out what’s a legitimate request and what’s not.

Canadians lost more than $161 million to investment scams over the first six months of 2023. Fraud is the top crime against older Canadians, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre indicates that 27,000 Canadians are victims of identity theft every year, a number that’s likely under-reported.

With June being Senior’s Month, an annual initiative marked in several provinces io to recognize and celebrate older adults, here are seven ways to avoid financial scams.

  1. Review your bank accounts. Check your credit card and banking statements regularly to make sure there are no unauthorized charges. If you do see a payment for something you don’t recognize, contact your financial institution immediately and let them know so that you can dispute the charge.
  2. Use strong passwords and change them often. It’s important to use strong passwords on all of your online accounts, and it’s good practice to change them regularly. Be sure not to use the same password for multiple accounts. Follow our tips for creating strong passwords.
  3. Shred sensitive information. Don’t throw away any sensitive paperwork before shredding it. Dumpster diving is a common tactic whereby scammers will go through your garbage to find out information such as account numbers and passwords, and then use it to access your data or steal your identity. Always shred bank statements, tax information and other documents with sensitive information such as account numbers, social insurance numbers, personal identification numbers, etc.
  4. Use the Internet safely. Try to avoid using public Wi-Fi, as it’s less secure and can leave you vulnerable to hackers. If using public computers, such as those at a library, always log out of any accounts you’ve signed into before leaving. If you’re shopping online or inputting any kind of sensitive information, always make sure you’re using a secure website and Internet connection.
  5. Check your credit report. Once a year, contact a credit report agency such as Equifax and TransUnion – the two major credit reporting agencies in Canada – to ask for a copy of your credit report. Many agencies provide a report for free. Review your credit reports thoroughly and make sure your information is accurate. If there are any debts that you do not recognize, let them know you want to dispute it.
  6. Double check email addresses and links. Scammers are becoming savvier at getting people to click on malicious links. They pose as representatives from the Government or other companies to get you to trust them, and often use a sense of urgency to get you to click on a link without fully reading it. Always read email addresses and links carefully to make sure they’re legitimate. If you’re unsure, contact the company or government agency directly to confirm whether or not they sent you communication. Banks and government agencies typically don’t text or send unsecure emails, so always be wary of messages like these.
  7. Educate yourself. Ultimately, the best way to avoid becoming a victim of financial fraud is to educate yourself on common scams. New scams are always popping up, so it’s important to keep apprised of new tricks that criminals are using. Here are some of the most common financial scams to watch out for.

To learn more about how to protect yourself online, visit abcconnectforlearning.ca to download free helpful resources.