Telephone and text scams are constantly on the rise. They are also increasingly insidious, to the point where it can be difficult to separate what’s true from what’s false. Anyone can fall into the trap! Learn how to recognize fraud to better avoid scams and find ways to reduce unwanted communications.
The different faces of fraud
Scammers use creative means to achieve their goal. Here are five commonly reported types of telephone and text scams.
1. False government messages
Some fraudsters pose as representatives of provincial or federal agencies. They create a scenario that generates a sense of urgency and panic, such as saying that you have a tax balance due, your social insurance number has been stolen, or that you are being prosecuted. In this way, they capitalize on the vulnerability of certain groups, such as immigrants.
Socioeconomic change can also give rise to a wave of fraud. You may get text messages asking you to claim a new credit, for example, when new measures are actually in place at the time. Remember that the government never communicates such information by telephone or text. Credits or refunds are paid by direct deposit or cheque.
2. False collection messages
For many people, owing money creates anxiety. Scammers know this! A common type of fraud is making you believe that you are in debt to a business. Someone posing as a representative of a debt collection agency or company may call to inform you that you have an outstanding balance due immediately.
If you doubt the authenticity of the call, ask for a notice to be mailed to you, without providing your address since any company of which you are a customer should already have your contact information.
3. False technical support calls
Another common scam is calling people to “let them know” that their computer is infected with a virus. The scammers then encourage you to give them control of your device to fix it, and they can then access your data.
Have you been contacted and told that one of your loved ones is in distress and needs money? This is a psychological fraud tactic, sometimes called “social engineering.” This type of fraud is emotional: if you are worried about a loved one, you may drop your guard in order to help them. If you have doubts, hang up and call the loved one at a number you know.
5. False donation requests
Fraudsters can exploit current events to extract money from their victims. Recently, some fraudsters impersonated members of charities that raise funds in support of Ukraine. It can be difficult to recognize this type of fraud because real organizations can engage in legitimate telephone solicitation. If you want to support a cause, ask for the charity’s registration number and verify it. You can also find the organization’s contact information online and call back to make your donation.
How can you protect yourself?
Your mobile phone can help protect you from unwanted calls. Check the Apple (iPhone), Google (Pixel), and Samsung manufacturer support pages for information on how to screen and block calls on their devices.
The telecommunications industry is also implementing a series of measures to reduce the number of unwanted calls. These measures include the STIR/SHAKEN standards, which allow the company to authenticate a phone number and display certain calls as “verified.”
Otherwise, vigilance is your best protection:
Do not answer calls from unknown numbers; if important, the caller will leave a message
Don’t act when an urgent response is requested
Report and delete communications that appear fraudulent
Screen unwanted calls using a mobile screening app or star codes
Fraudulent calls and text messages are harmless unless you respond to requests. You’re in control—feel free to conduct your own checks at any time!
Have you ever experienced telephone or text fraud? If you were able to avoid it, what was it that alerted you to it? Share your experience in our Forum discussion thread!