The advent of new techniques, such as falsifying phone numbers or “spoofing,” has resulted in more sophisticated and targeted scams in Canada. These “emergency” scams have become particularly prevalent among seniors. In fact, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported that Canadians lost more than $9.2 million to emergency scams in 2022 – a dramatic increase from $2.4 million the year before.
Here’s how the scam works.
Let’s imagine it’s a Saturday afternoon, and Grandma is binge-watching her favorite Korean drama at home. She receives a phone call from her grandson Alexander. He tells her he’s been caught drinking and driving, and needs her to send money to pay his bail. When she offers to tell his parents for him, he begs her not to because they will be angry with him. Instead, Alexander pleads with her to send the money in a wire transfer as soon as possible.
Believing that her grandson needs immediate help, Grandma transfers the money. Because she didn’t want to upset him, she didn’t tell his parents or anyone else about the wire transfer until weeks later when she saw him again.
By that time, the scam artists using technology to mimic her grandson’s voice were long gone, along with Grandma’s money.
There are variations of the scam described above, such as using text messages and emails or making up other false expenses like medical bills or lawyer fees, but they often share the same sense of urgency and secrecy.
While these types of scams are on the rise, TD has several useful tips to help you and your loved ones avoid falling victim to them.
How to avoid being defrauded
1) Don’t panic: Before acting, ask yourself if the person on the other line or in the message sounds or behaves like the person you know. If you’re unsure, hang up the phone and call them back using the number you have for them.
2) Verify the caller: Ask the caller questions that only the person they’re imitating or speaking for would know, such as when you last saw them or a nickname you have for them. Be careful about requesting information from them that is readily available on social media. And don’t offer names or confirm details the fraudsters prompt you to provide.
3) Be aware of fake numbers: Don’t trust caller ID names and numbers. Scammers can use technology to disguise the number they’re calling from and make it appear as a trusted number in a tactic known as “spoofing.”
4) Report the scam: If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud, the RCMP recommends contacting your financial institution immediately, reporting the incident to your local police, and filing a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
5) Remain vigilant: Regularly check your statements, online accounts, and banking apps for any fraudulent activity. You can also use tools, such as TD Fraud Alerts and TD MySpend, that make it easier to keep track of your account activity.
6) Educate yourself: There are many resources out there, including on the TD Stories website and on TD.com, to learn more about how to protect yourself and your loved ones against different types of fraud.
7) Understand the bank’s role: Know that the bank will never ask you to deposit money into bitcoin machines, buy gift cards, help investigate bank employees or internal fraud, or send people to your home or other location to collect money.
8) Don’t lie: Never be dishonest with the bank about the purpose of your withdrawals, transfers, payments, etc. TD colleagues are trained to ask questions to help you keep your finances safe
9) Talk about it: Spread the word about common scams so your family and friends are aware and can protect themselves too, especially if you are the caregiver at home. The more people who know about these scams, the more difficult it will be for fraudsters to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
Customers can learn more about fraud, scams, prevention, and reporting options at TD.com. They can also visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which collects information on fraud and identity theft and shares current and past scams affecting Canadians.