‘We were surprised to see many groups feeling confident in how they spot scams, despite the rise in fraud during these tough times’
Close to six in 10 (57 per cent) Canadians have seen fraud attempts increase this year, according to a new report.
And 55 per cent worry increased isolation is making people more susceptible to fraud. Another 58 per cent said the pandemic has increased stress levels, providing additional points of vulnerability for fraudsters to exploit, according to a new report.
“As Canadians enter the second year of COVID-19 we examined the impacts of these pressures on their fraud defences to provide tips on how to prevent emerging scams heightened by the pandemic,” said Rachel Jolicoeur, director for fraud mitigation and strategy at Interac Corp. “While we anticipated the isolation, financial hardship, and stress from the pandemic would impact Canadians’ defences against fraud, we were surprised to see many groups feeling confident in how they spot scams, despite the rise in fraud during these tough times.”
More than half (52 per cent) believe there is greater risk of fraud due to more time spent engaging in online activities, like virtual learning, banking, accessing government services, shopping and socializing virtually due to pandemic restrictions.
Last year, attacks on web applications rose by 800 per cent in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period the previous year.
Among age groups, Millennials (53 per cent) and Gen Z (52 per cent) are the most likely to report that they themselves, someone close to them, or both, have fallen victim to fraud this year. Only 30 per cent of seniors reported they or someone close to them had fallen victim to fraud this year, found the survey of 2,200 adult residents of Canada conducted in February.
“People are feeling particularly anxious, stressed and preoccupied as a result of COVID-19 as our sense of normalcy has been disrupted. Additional stressors and pressures, including health, family, work, debt, isolation, loneliness, and general uncertainty make it harder to spot and resist a clever fraud attempt,” said Dr. Christine Purdon, a psychologist from the University of Waterloo. “Stress and anxiety put us into fight or flight mode, maximizing our potential to respond quickly to a threat. However, this can lead us to make decisions more quickly and with less deliberation – something fraudsters know and act on.”
More than four in 10 (44 per cent) of Canadians have received a call from someone claiming to be from a reputable source, like a bank or government, asking for personal or financial information, according to a separate report from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
Despite all these, Canadians of all generations believe they have the information needed to spot a fraud attempt, and Gen Z respondents appeared to be the most resilient in their efforts to combat fraud.
Though they reported feeling frustrated, stressed, and anxious after fraud experiences, 77 per cent of them now feel more confident in their ability to spot scams, and 59 per cent see themselves as more cautious as a result of past experiences.
"COVID-19 has placed new pressures on Canadians, but they remain vigilant in their attempts to combat these crimes," said Jolicoeur. "Over half (57 per cent) report they are eager to learn more about how to protect themselves. This is encouraging news as Canadians are the first line of defence in fraud prevention.”
According to the Canadian Fraud Centre, between March 6, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021 there have been 11,502 Canadian reports of COVID-19 fraud, and 9,797 Canadians have fallen victims. Canadians have lost $7 million to fraudsters.
Interac Corp also shared some tips to help Canadians prevent falling victim to fraud:
- Don't feel pressured into taking action if you receive a request for personal information that you weren't expecting – make it a habit to stop and think rather than quickly respond.
- Make use of online resources like the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to stay up to date on scams and how to spot them.
- If you suspect fraud, contact the sender of the communication through a different channel to verify it's real. If you've already provided sensitive information, immediately contact your financial service provider and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.