We now live in a world dominated by the internet, websites, apps, games etc. You can find and do anything you want online these days, including scamming people.
Learning ways to protect yourself online is important, especially for the younger generations constantly being introduced to new technologies.
As a student, most of my schoolwork is done online, so I need to be able to protect myself, as sometimes, simply clicking the wrong link may cause malware to be downloaded.
It is also essential to be careful about what Wi-Fi networks you use, as public networks are often unsecured, and hackers can access your information without you even knowing.
Scams And Fraud
A scam is when a person uses deceit to get your personal and/or financial details. This turns into fraud when the scammer uses your information under false pretenses for their gain or receives money from you. Fraud is generally a criminal offense.
Scammers may approach you in different ways:
- By email.
- Through social media.
- By a phone call.
- Through a text
- By mail.
Scammers might use your personal or business information to:
- Access your finances.
- Steal your identity.
- Buy goods or services.
- Access your business networks.
Signs It’s a Scam
Pretending to be from a well-known organization
Often, scammers pretend to be from government agencies. They might contact you under the pretense of the Canada Revenue Agency, for example. They might also pretend to be from a utility company, tech company, or charity asking for donations.
With technology, they can change the phone number of your caller ID, so the name and number may be fake.
In Canada, it is common for scammers to pretend to be from:
- Service Canada or a 1-800-O-Canada number
- Canada Revenue Agency
- Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada
- Canada Border Services Agency
Using the pretext of a problem or a prize out of the blue
Scammers often ask you to share your personal or financial information by pretending to have a problem or have won a prize. These scams often come unexpectedly.
- You are in trouble with the government.
- You owe money.
- An emergency in your family.
- Your computer has a virus.
- A problem with an account, and your information needs to be verified.
- You won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but must pay a fee to receive it.
Threatening and pressuring you to act right away
Scammers might threaten you with arrest, suing, removal of your driver’s or business license or even deportation. They might also threaten to corrupt your computer.
They threaten to pressure you to act before thinking or having time to investigate their story because they often have vague contact details. They will do everything they can to keep you on the phone and might even call you repeatedly.
Paying in a particular way
Often you are asked to send money through a money transfer company or gift cards. For gift cards, you are asked to put money on them, then give them the numbers on the back. Some will also send a check to deposit and then send that money; however, later, this check turns out to be fake.
Often, they are told not to tell their family and friends about these transactions.
How To Avoid a Scam
One of the first basic approaches you can take is to block unwanted calls and text messages.
It is important not to give out your personal or financial information when you didn’t expect it. Legitimate organizations will not ask for your personal information over the phone, email, or text. If you get an email, call, or text from a company you recognize, it is still important not to click any links. You can, instead, contact them through their website or look up their phone number to ensure they are legitimate.
Legitimate businesses will not pressure you to decide immediately; they will give you time to think. So, do not feel pressured to act immediately. Anyone who does pressure you to act right away is most likely a scammer.
A telltale sign of a scammer is how they want you to pay. Never pay someone through gift cards, a money transfer service, or a deposited check to send back.
If you are unsure, ask someone you trust! Many individuals get scammed, so someone may be able to tell you in advance whether it’s a scam or not.
How To Protect Yourself
- Always check the ID of anyone who comes to your door. Remember, you don’t have to let anyone in that you don’t want to.
- Do not feel pressured to buy anything immediately; check their credentials first.
- If they offer a service, get two or three quotes from other businesses to ensure you get the best deal!
- Installing anti-virus and firewall software is vital in protecting your computer. But first, do some research to make sure you use legitimate software. Some software will cost a monthly or yearly fee, like nordvpn.com. Whichever software you choose, keep it up to date!
- Never click on the links or attachments if you ever receive an unexpected email. Even if you are simply unsubscribing, it’s best to visit the business’s website.
- Never reply to emails you receive randomly, even to ask a question or say no. Simply delete it.
- Never use public Wi-Fi to access your financial records, like your online banking, and don’t shop online on public Wi-Fi.
On social media
- Occasionally, check your privacy settings on apps and devices and keep them up to date!
- If a friend or someone you know messages you asking for money, use another medium to check that it is really them. Calling them would be the fastest and easiest way to confirm.
- Never share personal information, as people can use this against you. For example, information like your pet’s name or date of birth could be easily used as passwords or posting when you are on holiday or not home can lead to someone breaking into your home at those times.
- If you are unsure if someone’s account is real, message or call them through a different medium to confirm.
On the phone
- Ignore texts from numbers you do not recognize. Likewise, do not answer numbers you do not know or expect; if it is important, they will call you back, or you can call them back.
- If you answer the phone, ask for the caller’s name and the organization they represent. Then, you can check their credentials on their website or by calling them yourself.
- If you call them back, wait a minimum of 30 minutes in case they have kept the line open. You could also use a different phone number.
- Shred your mail and receipts with your credit card and personal information.
- A common sign people put on their door or mailbox is a ‘no junk mail’ or ‘no flyers’ sign.
- Pick an original and unique password for your online accounts. Using the same password for multiple sites is unsafe. A way to add some extra protection is using a password manager.
- An additional step now offered more and more is turning on multifactor authentication. This means that you must approve the sign-in via a different medium, like inputting a code that is texted to you.
Common Scams in Canada
Offers of “free” trials for products and services can turn into subscriptions. These subscriptions often secretly take monthly charges off your credit card and are hard to cancel.
As a student, you might be trying to save where you can, but be careful not to fall for these fake organizations.
Scammers will collect and reproduce your personal information for their gain, which would be committing fraud.
This is the last thing you want to deal with, so keep information like your social insurance number private and only give it out when you know it is safe.
Health and medical scams
Fake pharmacies, weight-loss programs, and miracle cures can be found online and are the most common health scams in Canada. These can be enticing, especially if you have been struggling with your health. However, it will only harm you financially.
Many dating sites are out there now, so you must be careful about who you choose to talk to. People on these dating sites can be trying to trick you into sending them money because of love.
So, they will use a fake profile with fake information and be very sweet and caring to convince you they love you back to receive money.
Phishing and smishing scams
Phishing is receiving scam emails, and smishing is receiving scam text messages. These emails and texts try to get your financial or personal information. These are very common these days; it is essential to delete them immediately; even clicking on a link can lead to stolen information.
Find more at the Competition Bureau of Canada’s website!
If You Are a Victim of A Scam Or Fraud
There are a few steps you can take if you have been a victim of a scam or fraud:
- Contact the police and let them know what happened. Visit the Government of Canada website for more information on reporting a fraud case.
- Contact the service provider affected by the scam, such as your bank. If it was a credit card scam, then your bank will be able to cancel your card and give you a new one, usually at no additional cost.
- Change the passwords for the accounts that were compromised.
- Regularly check your credit report! This helps you see if any additional credit card accounts have been opened in your name. The Government of Canada offers two websites: Equifax.ca and Transunion.ca.
Your Privacy is Important! Or Don’t be a Scammer’s Next Victim!
These are simple and easy ways to avoid scams that can benefit students and protect themselves when using school, library or coffee shop Wi-Fi while studying. If you give out your personal information, trust the person you are giving it to. This includes money, too; only give money to people you trust. You always have the option to talk to someone you trust if you are unsure or sleep on it and do some investigating.