According to a new survey released by TD to mark Fraud Prevention Month, nearly four in 10 respondents (37%) said they were targeted by fraudsters in the last year, with most fraud attempts happening over the phone (64%), followed by emails and text messages (58%).
Over the past two years, many Canadians have started investing online for the first time, and many have started to turn to online sources of information when making investment decisions. Indeed, one in four survey respondents (26%) reported receiving investment advice online from people they don't personally know, including via social media and/or direct messaging platforms.
"Fraud can happen to anyone no matter how smart, educated, informed and tech savvy they think they are," says Sophia Leung, head of Protect Platform at TD, which oversees fraud strategy and cyber-threat management. "Fraudsters are experts at exploiting an important part of what makes us human: trust."
Unfortunately, according to Leung, social media and direct messaging platforms are being used by fraudsters to target people with investment scams, where victims are sometimes tricked into giving large sums of money toward fake investments, lured by the promises of get-rich-quick schemes or by illegitimate offers to help invest the victim's money.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadians lost a reported $163.9 million to investment scams in 2021. That’s up from $16.5 million in 2020 – an increase of 893%.
Although investment scams were reported less frequently than other types of fraud, they account for the largest dollar amount lost by Canadians to fraud in the last year, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Leung recommends approaching unsolicited online investment opportunities with suspicion, especially if you're feeling pressured.
"In general, you want to be cautious about investment opportunities that offer high returns in a short period of time," says Leung.
"Fraudsters will also try to apply high-pressure tactics to make you act in a hurry to exploit the human 'fear of missing out.' A good way to look at investment opportunities is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
Despite the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reporting an increase in investment scams and fraud risk in Canada, 51% of TD survey respondents said discussions around fraud risks and fraud prevention don't come up in conversations with people they know, including friends and family.
Leung says simply talking about fraud can help to reduce risk in your social circles. For example, by coming forward and talking about your own experience, or by educating loved ones about the most common types of scams, such as the "Grandparent Scam" that attempts to coerce grandparents into sending money to a "grandchild" in distress, discussed in this article from TD Stories.
"It's important to be aware of the latest fraud trends and tips that can help you protect yourself," she says.
"By regularly sharing and discussing more openly about our experiences of receiving fraudulent calls or messages, we can help people to be more aware of the scams that are out there, especially when the conversations happen with people we trust."
For more tips to help protect yourself from fraud, read the full version of this article on TD Stories.