Fraud Prevention Month

March, 2017, was the 13th annual Fraud Prevention month and highlights a continuing need to expose risks to the public year-round. Cyber-fraud is alive and well and can be found anywhere in the world.

Social Media and Fraud

Most of us are aware of fraud in the electronic world. Just about everyone has heard of, or from, the Nigerian prince who will pay a hefty commission if you’ll help him transfer millions of dollars out of the country. Of course, he needs all your banking information and your social insurance number, birth-date and other personal financial information in order to complete the process. Or, he needs an advance of cash to pay bribes, fees or other manufactured costs.

If this seems to be incredibly transparent and something that no one would ever fall for, know that this still a technique used by con artists — because it still works. People have not only sent money but have actually gone to Nigeria. Once there many of them were arrested and held even though they were, in fact, a victim of a crime.

Variations on this theme result in solicitations such as these:

  • People are asked to provide personal financial information to assist the perpetrator in “verifying” that they are the beneficiary of a spectacularly generous will.
  • Donations are solicited to help fight atrocious human rights violations and donors are asked to provide financial identity information so that the fraudster can get to the donation more efficiently.
  • People selling items on the Internet are sent a fake cashier cheque or international money order for amounts over the asking price. The catch is that they must send the fraudulent buyer the dollar difference between the asking price and the value of the phoney payment. This is usually explained as a way for the buyer to get money out of his or her horribly oppressive country. You would be surprised at how many people follow the instructions without making any effort to find out if the payment will clear their bank.

The Government of Canada Competition Bureau estimates that from January 2014 to December 2016, Canadians lost over $290 million to fraudsters. Among these victims is one of the most vulnerable populations, seniors, who reportedly lost almost $28 million to various scams.

Telephone, emails and in-person crime is still strong but criminals have branched out to cover social media platforms and target those with a strong presence there. Fake websites mimic banks, stock exchanges, charitable organizations and other trusted entities as a way of confirming that the criminals are legitimate.

What does it look like?

Here are some examples of popular cyber-fraud efforts:

  • Subscription Traps or Continuity Scams
    • These may surface in the form of an advertisement on social media site, a referral from a friend, a fake survey that pops up on your computer while you’re online, or a solicitation from a telemarketer. The victim is offered a free trial or money-back purchase of a product. However, the target victim must use their credit card to pay up front for the shipping and handling costs. If you fall for this, you will find yourself committed to a subscription service. Buried in the fine print of the subscription are terms and conditions that, if not followed precisely leave the victim responsible for ongoing costs.  If you become mired in this, it can be extremely difficult to free yourself.
  • Spoofed websites
    • Victims are led to believe that a fake website represents a real business, financial institution, government or charity. They purchase, redeem or donate as requested and their money is lost to criminals.
  • Ransomware
    • Ransomeware is software that blocks access to a computer. Most commonly, victims click on a link or attachment received in an email. They then receive a ransom note to scare or extort them into making a payment using Bitcoin, Ukash or PaySafe to have their computer unlocked.
  • Business Executive Scam
    • The potential victim receives an email seeming to come from someone in their company with the authority to request wire transfers.
      The recipient is instructed to make a payment to a bank account. The money is never seen again.

 

  • Fake Online Endorsements and Sponsored Content

 

  • Victims purchase a product or service based on reviews and endorsements that are, in fact, manufactured by the perpetrator.
  • Employment Scams
    • Scammers use legitimate websites like Kijiji, Craigslist, Monster, Indeed, and Workopolis. The victim may be hired as a mystery shopper. He or she receives a cheque in the mail and instructions to complete local purchases and document their experience. The catch: the difference between the value of the cheque and the victim’s expenditure is to be returned by wire. The cheque is counterfeit and the victim, who has already wired the difference to the criminal, is also responsible to cover all the costs incurred.

Protect Yourself

“If something seems too good to be true, it probably is” is an adage that has been around in some form or another for centuries. For a reason. It can be the foundation for a strategy to protect you from fraud. Never volunteer personal or financial information or accept offers for easy money until you have:

  • Reviewed all fine print and terms and conditions before purchase or payment.
  • Conduct your own search to learn if the offer or solicitation has already been identified as a scam.
  • Consider advertising to be false until you have definitely established that it is not. Be especially alert to banner ads on websites.
  • Before sending money or products, request a meeting with the person or a phone number at which they can be contacted.
  • Ignore unusual or irregular email requests.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails.
  • Review credit card statements regularly for unauthorized charges.

 

Most importantly, don’t let them get away with it. Report fraud to the authorities and support efforts to catch the perpetrators.