March is Fraud Prevention month, an annual campaign that seeks to help people recognize, reject and report fraud.

Jeff Horncastle, Acting Client and Communications Outreach Officer with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, explained more about what fraud is.

"So when we're looking at mass-marketing fraud specifically, it's fraud that targets the masses, usually organized crime with a well-orchestrated web of deceit that sets up to steal our money and/or personal information from many people at a time." 

Horncastle elaborated that whether we're looking at phishing campaigns, telephone or social media scams, fraudsters are all after the same thing. "Even if they're looking to steal personal information and commit identity fraud, they're looking to steal money from the victim." 

Identity theft leads to identity fraud in a lot cases, he said, and that's where the victim's information is used to open credit card accounts, cell phone accounts, apply for government benefits, and the list goes on. 

In terms of being cyber secure, he said, "Protect your computer by ensuring your operating system and security software are up to date and secure your online accounts. Use strong passwords and, when possible, enable two factor authentication. As well, secure your devices and internet connections."

"Don't click on any links in any kind of emails or text messages and never give anyone remote access to your computer. Disable your webcam or storage devices when not in use."

When you're getting a phone call, he shared, keep in mind that caller ID spoofing exists, so you may be seeing legitimate phone numbers show up in your call display. "Don't confirm the legitimacy of a phone call on that number you're seeing. Always make the outgoing call, especially if the caller is looking for personal information." 

"If they claim to be a government agency or a family member, or whatever the case may be, look up the legitimate number for that person, organization or business and make the outgoing call." 

In terms of phishing, he advised that it's the number one scam based on the number of reports received in 2022, keeping in mind that only five to ten percent of victims actually report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

"Primarily by e-mail or text message, suspects are claiming to be or impersonating government agencies, financial institutions, or service providers, and they want you essentially to click on a link or download an attachment to steal your personal information with the final goal of committing identity fraud against the victim." 

If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, he said, it's important to take the necessary steps to prevent identity fraud from occurring.

"The list is on our website. That includes contacting your financial institutions, contacting both credit bureaus Equifax and TransUnion, and contacting government agencies. We always advise to review your credit report at least once a year to make sure that everything on there is in order and all of the accounts listed on your credit report are actually yours, as well as contacting the police."

Many of us have the knowledge to protect ourselves from fraud, and Horncastle asked that people share that knowledge with their family and loved ones, as it will go a long way and it could prevent victimization.

Horncastle added that a fraud attempt or fraud can be reported online HERE through a fraud reporting system, or contact their toll free number at 1-888-495-8501