Canadians are using the Internet to commit crimes more than ever. According to Statistics Canada, there were 7,727 victims and 32,968 cases of cybercrimes in 2018. Of those, by far the most prevalent cybercrime is fraud with 16,422 victims. And online fraud is on the rise. It has gone up every single year from 2014 to 2018.
In this article, we’ll discuss online fraud, types of online fraud, protecting yourself, and what to do if you’ve been scammed.
What is Online Fraud?
Online fraud is when a criminal uses the Internet to defraud someone or take advantage of them. It usually involves the criminal purposely hiding information or giving false information to gain money or property from the victim. A criminal may steal your bank account information or steal your identity entirely.
Online fraud isn’t a single act. Rather it involves a host of illegal online activities. Fraud differs from theft since the victim often voluntarily provides the information or money to the criminal.
Here are a couple of the most common types of online fraud.
For those lonely, especially during COVID-19 times, the romance scam is one to watch out for. It involves scammers using dating websites and social media to defraud you of your money. The scammers use fake profiles and photos to make you think you’re speaking with a real person. They share fake details about their lives to gain your trust.
Once they have your trust, that’s when the requests for money start. The scammer could claim that they need money for a medical emergency or car repair. They’ll ask you to send money via Western Union, Bitcoin, gift cards or some other way that’s difficult to get your money back.
Signs to watch for is anyone who asks you for money, has a limited number of photos, is hesitate to meet up or speak on the phone and says they’ve fallen in love with you in a short period of time without even meeting you. To protect yourself, it’s best not to send money to anyone you don’t know.
The Nigerian 419 Scam
This is one of the oldest online scams out there. It’s called the Nigerian 419 scam after the criminal code in Nigeria banning this fraud. You probably received one of these messages to your email account, but in case you haven’t, I’ll quickly run through it with you.
It starts by receiving a message through email or social networking from an unfamiliar email address. The message will almost always be an emotional plea from someone claiming to be a government official, business person, or related to royalty.
The fraudster will ask you for help retrieving money from a bank in exchange for a large sum of money. They’ll ask you to pay varioius fees. Sadly, you’ll never actually receive any of the money you were promised. The only thing you’re left is broke.
Here are some of the ways you can fight back and protect yourself against online fraud.
Be careful who you hand personal information and financial information over to. If you’re being ask for personal information like your social insurance number and financial information like your credit card numbers and something smells fishy, don’t be afraid to say no.
Take the time to do your own independent research to make sure you’re sharing this information with a reputable source and not a scammer.
If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If someone is offering you money for doing next to nothing, it should raise a red flag.
Don’t be shy to ask for a second opinion from someone you trust like a loved one or friend.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
If you suspect that you’re a victim of online fraud, you must act quickly.
Have you’ve sent money to someone you think is a scammer? If so, attempt to recover the money right away. If you sent the money via Western Union or Money Order, there may still be time to stop it before the scammer cashes it.
Whether you get your money back on your own or not, you’ll want to contact your local police department and report the fraud. Most likely you’re not the only victim of this fraud. By reporting the crime, you can help protect other people from being scammed.
Besides your local police department, you’ll also want to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre specializes in fraud. They may be able to help identify connections to cases similar to yours.
Have you been a victim of online fraud and you’re trying to rebuild your finances? If so, please contact us today and we can help.