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Common Schemes and Scams

Schemes & Scams

The following are common scams used to gain access to personal and financial data.


Learn what phishing is and how to protect yourself. Phishing emails are becoming more sophisticated and can be tricky to spot. Being able to recognize phishing emails can help prevent you from becoming a victim.

Phishing is a common online scam designed to trick you into disclosing your personal or financial information for the purpose of financial fraud or identity theft.

How does it work?

  • You receive an email which seems to be from a legitimate company. A phishing email will give you a bogus reason to lure you into providing your personal information (examples are there has been a security breach or you can have an opportunity to enter a contest).
  • Typically, the email will encourage you to click on a link that takes you to a phoney website, which will look authentic by copying the brand name and logo of a real company.
  • This phoney site will ask you for personal information such as credit card numbers, account numbers, passwords, date of birth, driver's license number, and social insurance numbers.
While you may believe you are giving your information to a valid company, instead you are actually providing your personal and confidential information to an individual who will use it for fraudulent purposes!

How was my email obtained?

Email addresses are easily obtained and shared on the Internet –much like phone numbers and mailing addresses.

Successful fraudsters:
  • Target companies with large numbers of customers.
  • Send thousands of phishing emails in order to reach as many customers as possible (many of the emails are also received by non-customers).
  • Compose the email messages in such a way as to trick people into revealing their confidential information.
Recognizing Phishing Emails:

“Phishing” emails masquerading as notifications from Financial Institutions are an ongoing challenge for consumers. Be aware that criminals are behind phishing emails. Their intention is to obtain your personal and confidential information which they can use to commit financial fraud or identity theft.

If you are unsure if an email request is legitimate or not, take a few moments to verify the request before you give out information or click on a link. Be sure to verify the request using another source, not a source that is provided within the email itself. Remain wary of unsolicited emails and always be cautious in your online activity. Those simple steps can help protect you from falling victim to a scam.

Your best defense against these email scams remains knowing how to recognize them:

  1. Phishing emails may begin with a generic greeting such as "Dear Client" or the more sophisticated ones will address you directly by name or email address;
  2. Beware of emails requiring your “immediate action” in order to prevent a service from being shut down unless you log on “now” or enter your personal, financial or credit card information. These are classic phishing email techniques and should always be viewed skeptically;
  3. Be suspicious of all unsolicited emails that request personal information, even if you recognize the name of the sender. Though that email may contain your name and other information that applies to you, it may still be a scam;
  4. Don’t be fooled by emails that offer “too good to be true” enticements and email scams regularly take advantage of timely events to promote fraudulent websites:
  1. when tragic incidents occur, fake charity sites pop up;
  2. when “juicy” stories make the news, websites promising the latest pictures or information quickly surface;
  3. for sporting events, phony websites offer amazing deals on seating;
  4. on occasions such as tax season, emails try to scare you into entering personal information on a fake website;
  5. for annual holidays, fraudsters’ websites promise “unheard of” shopping deals.
The goal of all of these scams is to get you to click on a link or access the fraudsters’ website. The result could be an automatic attempt to secretly load malicious code to your computer. Or the email or website could contain convincing tactics to get you to enter your credit card or other personal information that could be used to commit financial fraud against you.

Fake Charities

If you receive an unsolicited call, asking you to donate to a charitable cause, don't give your credit card number over the phone or agree to have someone collect a cheque in person.

Ask the caller to mail a pledge form to you or take their telephone number, to call them back. Do not return the phone call until you independently verify that the phone number is legitimate.

Telemarketing Scams

These scams are when you are contacted by a supposed telemarketing firm, claiming that you have won a prize or a trip, but asking for your credit card number, requesting that you purchase a promotional item, or that you pay the taxes for that prize or trip, in order to collect your winnings.

Be highly suspicious when receiving voicemail messages directing you to call and provide credit card or bank numbers. These types of scams are called "Vishing". Rather than provide any information, we advise you to discontinue the call and contact your bank or credit card company directly to verify the validity of the message or the prize.

If you think that you may be involved in a telemarketing scam, contact the authorities:

• Canada: PhoneBusters at 1 (888) 495-8501.

Unusual Requests That Are "Too Good to be True"

Be suspicious if you are contacted by phone, mail, email or fax and told that you've won, inherited or been included in a business venture involving large sums of money.

Also be alerted to another scam, if you are selling personal property (e.g. a car or other goods). A fraudulent person may pose as an interested buyer, pay for the goods with a cheque that's substantially greater than the asking price, and then call you to request that you return the overpayment. In many cases, the original cheque is stolen, counterfeit or altered and is not returned to the bank until a much later date. You won't discover there is a problem with the cheque until you have returned the so-called "overpayment."

Be careful about sending any funds back by cheque or wire transfer. If you are sending a payment via wire, ensure that you are comfortable with your transaction and that you are fully aware of to whom you are sending the funds. If an individual or third party asks you to make a deposit or open an account on their behalf, ensure you are confident of their identity and the validity of their reasons for the request before you do so. Be extremely wary of this kind of request.

Job Scams

Advertising opportunities to make extra money, earn money from home or make a career move have never been greater. Unfortunately not all employment advertisements are legitimate. Avoid a type of job scam known as a payment-forwarding or payment-transfer. Be wary of jobs where you are asked to accept and transfer money from one bank account to another. Often the receiving bank account will be in a different country, and you will be requested to have an account at a specific bank in Canada. You may be instructed to keep a small percentage of the money being transferred as payment.

The details of this type of scam vary and can be quite clever.
Fraudsters may request a job applicant's bank account information in order to set up a direct-deposit payment schedule, or they may transfer the funds themselves without the applicant's knowledge. Fraudsters may steal company names and corporate logos to make their ad or email more convincing. They may also scan for resumes that job seekers have posted online and then contact them directly.

Always ensure any potential employers and requests are legitimate. Be aware of this type of scam. If you transfer money that has been stolen or is being laundered you could be an accomplice to the crime, under the law.

Advance-Fee Scams

Posing as a reputable financial institution by copying its brand and logo, fraudsters promote supposed pre-approved loans and mortgages or unusually high interest rates for investment products. Business is solicited on the strength of the reputation of the financial institution, and money is requested up front to secure the approved credit or high-return investment product.

Always ensure that the institution and offer is legitimate. If you are uncertain, call the institution to verify the offer using the institution's legitimate phone number that you have independently obtained, not the phone number printed on the suspicious offer.
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