Scams and Frauds in Canada and How to Avoid These

Scams and frauds happen everywhere, even in Canada.  Unfortunately, many of them prey on immigrants. This is because immigrants are less aware of how things work in their new home.  Also, they may feel more pressure to comply in fear that their actions might jeopardize their status in Canada.

View of Canada from a Plane

Immigrants come to Canada with hopes of creating a better life.  It is very heartbreaking to hear stories of shattered dreams due to scams and frauds.

In this post, I will share:

  • 10 common scams and frauds with links to reputable sources
  • my personal experiences
  • tips on how to avoid being a victim of scams and frauds.

Hopefully, we can help each other avoid being victims of other people’s ill intentions.

Phishing Scams Now Targeting Social Insurance Numbers by CityNews Toronto

COMMON SCAMS AND FRAUDS

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre lists numerous types of scams that almost span the entire alphabet. I am highlighting some common scams and frauds based on my personal experiences, conversations with people living in Canada, and news stories.  

CBC Calls Back CRA Phone Scammer

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH SCAMS AND FRAUDS IN CANADA

Common Scams

A few weeks ago, I got this strange text message. 

Example of a Scam and Fraud  Text Message
Scam Text Message

The thing is, I do not have or have ever had an account with HSBC.  So, I knew it is not a legitimate message.

I have also received so many telephone calls trying to con me and probably millions of other people of our hard-earned money.  Some feature a robotic voice saying that my assets will be frozen if I do not provide the required information.  Others feature a woman speaking in a language that is foreign to me.  We get interns at work, most of them are international students.  Once, I asked an intern from China if he can understand the language and to translate for me.  He said the caller is threatening to have me arrested if I do not do as I was told.

I receive these calls year-round. However, I notice an increase in frequency of getting these calls around tax season.

Here are some common transcripts used in telephone scams collated by the Government of Canada.

But sometimes, you are not even aware that you have been a victim of a scam until it is too late. 

I once got a weird bill on my company credit card – a meal for two delivered to Saskatchewan.  I have never been to Saskatchewan.  Fortunately, I was able to get the money back. But I had to go through the hassle of canceling my card and applying for a new one.

However, I still consider myself lucky.  A colleague was charged $300+ only a few days after getting a new card. 

Scam Alert from the North Vancouver RCMP
Most of the time, scammers prey on your emotional weaknesses.

They prey on your fear.

I was once a target of an explicit video scam.  The scammers said they have access to some of my embarrassing videos.  As proof, they mentioned a password that I have used in the past.  I panicked and racked my brain about what video, photo, or information they might have.  Though I was sure of not having any explicit video, I feared that they accessed my computer or its webcam.  When I came back to my senses, I did a bit of research and confirmed my suspicion that this is a common scam fueled by a previous data breach.

They also take advantage of your good intentions.

A lady wearing a nurse’s uniform approached me at a gasoline station on an early weekend morning.  She said her car broke and needs some supplies to get it fixed.  Unfortunately, her daughter lives far and she needs to go to the hospital for her duty.  This was during the first wave of Covid-19.

I had a strong inkling that this was a scam.  However, I didn’t feel safe enough to refuse. It was still dark.  Also, there was only 1 other customer and the workers were busy topping up their inventory.  Plus she was standing uncomfortably close to the car and myself to cause potential damage or injury.

In the end, she asked for $35.  She said she would repay me through bank transfer and pretended to arrange it.  At that point, I really just wanted to get rid of her so she won’t harm me or my car if she indeed had bad intentions.  But, I also had a tiny ray of hope that I was being a good human being in case she was really in need.

View of Downtown Vancouver

WHAT TO DO TO AVOID SCAMS AND FRAUDS

  • Stay calm.  Scammers and fraudsters take advantage of our fears and distress.
  • Do not share your personal information.  When I applied for my SIN number, I was told never to share it.  I took that to heart.
  • Get advice from knowledgeable and reliable sources.  Our heightened emotions cloud our judgment.  Share your dilemma with people you trust.  They may be able to walk you calmly through the situation.
  • Do your research.  Start with official government websites.
  • Raise your awareness of how things work in your new home.  The Little Back Book of Scams from the Competition Bureau and these tips from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre are great starting points. 
  • Contact your local police if you a victim of scams, fraud, or cybercrime.
  • Report incidents of scams, fraud, or cybercrime to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Immigrants work hard to make sure that their hopes and dreams become a reality. Let us help each other make sure that scams and frauds do not get in our way.

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