How to protect yourself from COVID-19 fraud scams

Originally published: March 19, 2020

Fraudsters always try to profit from misinformation and during times of increased anxiety by targeting vulnerable people, and these times are no different.

By targeting victims through various means—including phone calls, email, texts and mail—fraudsters are increasingly contributing to financial loss, with Canadians reporting over $100 million in losses in 2019 alone according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

A recent TD survey revealed that the majority (61%) of Canadian respondents draw a strong link between social isolation and vulnerability to fraud as those who are socially isolated may not have anyone to act as a sounding board if they encounter a fraudster.

And while fraudsters will always try to target Canadians, times of volatility, such as the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, can make potential victims even more vulnerable. As a precaution, the RCMP has advised Canadians be on the lookout for scams related to the ongoing health crisis, including phishing, malware, and other malicious email campaigns.

Examples of common types of fraud

These are some examples of the most common types of fraud affecting Canadians, as well as some information on how you can better arm yourself to spot them before it’s too late.

  • Malware and Phishing
    Malware is a catch-all term for various forms of malicious software, including spyware, browser hijacking software, and fake security software. One of the most common ways malware is spread is through phishing emails.

  • Scams targeting seniors
    Seniors are increasingly being targeted by financial fraudsters. They often prey on seniors by creating a false emergency or false sense of urgency around why the funds are needed. Help protect your family members by educating them about common scams, such as the 'grandparent scam', where grandparents are conned into sending money to someone pretending to be their grandchild or another family member in a foreign country. Another common type is the romance scam, in which fraudsters use legitimate dating websites to extort money from someone looking for companionship.

  • Business email compromise
    Email is not a secure mode of communication and fraudsters can use it to their advantage. Remember to validate payment instructions on the phone or face-to-face, follow all internal policies and controls, and treat any message that claims a change was made to an account as a red flag.

  • E-Transfer fraud
    E-transfer fraud occurs when a third party intercepts an email money transfer and correctly guesses or obtains the password, robbing the sender of their funds. Learn how to mitigate the risks of e-transfer fraud by signing up for Interac e-Transfer Autodeposit.

Tips to protect yourself from fraud

As fraud becomes more sophisticated, it’s more important than ever to be vigilant and recognize the role you play in identifying and preventing fraud. To help, we’ve put together a few tips to assist in keeping you, your family, and your friends safe.

  • Monitor official sources – If you are searching for information and updates on COVID-19,visit official government sites like the Government of Canada or the World Health Organization for timely and relevant updates. Only visit news organizations that you know and trust and don't click on links or visit sites that you don't recognize as they could contain malware. Remember the old adage – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Pay attention to your fraud alerts. Many banks use text messages to communicate with their customers. By signing up for services such as TD Fraud Alerts, you'll receive text messages that will alert you if suspicious activity is detected on your personal banking account. It’s an easy way to help avoid falling victim to fraud on your personal banking account.
  • Keep tabs on your statements, online accounts and banking apps. Regularly checking your account transactions is an easy way to identify any potentially fraudulent transactions. Money management apps, such as the TD MySpend app, can also help you in the fight against fraud with real-time notifications of spend transactions, making it easy to spot suspicious charges.
  • Protect your PIN. Part of your responsibility as a credit and debit cardholder is protecting your PIN. No one – not even your bank – should know your PIN. It’s important to make sure you don’t ever give it out, whether in person, over the phone, online or by mail.
  • Have conversations with family and friends. Seniors are becoming frequent targets of scams, according the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Help protect your family members by talking about common scams that often target elderly Canadians.
  • If you fall victim to fraud, REPORT IT - It's important for those who have lost money to fraudsters to report it to the police, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. And share your story – your experience may help someone else avoid the same trap.

Brought to you by TD Newsroom

This content discusses current topics of interest in a general and informational manner only and may not be appropriate in all circumstances. Please ensure that you seek advice personalized for your situation from the appropriate professional, consultant or subject matter expert on the topic of interest to you.

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