The Competition Bureau of Canada says Canadians lost a record high amount to scams in 2021, with a 130 per cent increase from losses in 2020.
Nicola Pfeifer, senior competition law officer with the Competition Bureau Canada says even that number is lower than the actual amount since it is estimated only five per cent of losses to scams are reported.
“Last year it was a historic year for financial losses reported,” Pfeifer says. “$379 million was lost to scams and fraud in 2021. This is a 130 per cent increase over 2020.”
The most common types of scams in Canada are online purchase scams, with nearly one-third of all reported scams falling in that category.
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However, the Better Business Bureau, in the Canadian Risk Report, says the riskiest type of scam is cryptocurrency scams.
This is due to the high average amount lost to this type of scams.
The BBB says an average of $1,500 is lost to cryptocurrency scams, compared to an average of $125 lost to online purchase scams.
BBB encourages anyone who has fallen victim to a scam, or who encounters a scam, to report it using their Scam Tracker tool, as well as reporting the scam to police.
“One important tool that we use to assess what scams are affecting consumers is our BBB Scam Tracker, launched in 2015,” says Simone Lis, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau. “This online platform allows consumers and businesses across North America to report attempted or successful acts of fraud they’ve experienced. These instances of fraud are reviewed and posted for the public, empowering others to identify scams and avoid losing money.”
Lis says this tool can also be used for anyone who is uncertain if they are encountering a scam. Users can search the name of the company they are in contact with, and determine if other users have reported it as a likely scam.
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When people encounter something online that they may not be certain about, take a break to assess the situation.
“The golden rule is take five. Five minutes, five hours, five days, five weeks. Do not be in a hurry,” Pfeifer said. “Fraudsters contacting companies will almost always tell you what they want you to do is urgent and it can’t wait to apply pressure.”
“Be aware when someone is trying to pressure you. Take a moment stop and think before you part with your money or your personal information. This can make all the difference.”
According to the BBB report, 62.8 per cent of people who report exposure to a scam are women, but men report falling for scams 48.5 per cent of the time, with a higher amount lost to scams.
Men report a median of $369 lost to scams, compared to $188 for women.
The BBB has 10 tips to avoid falling victim to a scam:
- Never send money to someone you haven’t met.
- Don’t click links or attachments from unknown senders.
- Don’t believe everything you see or read.
- Take precautions when making online purchases.
- Be very cautious when dealing with people you have met online.
- Never share personal identifiable information with people who contact you unsolicited.
- Don’t be pressured to act quickly.
- Use secure, traceable transactions.
- Work with business that have proper identification, licensing, and insurance whenever possible.
- Use caution when sharing on social media.