Are Canadians letting down their guard against fraudsters?

Despite high awareness of scams and confidence in detecting them, many still fail to play it safe

Are Canadians letting down their guard against fraudsters?

Given all the cautionary tales of email scams and wire fraud, regular reminders to replace passwords, and investor protection alerts from securities regulators, it’s hardly surprising to see most Canadians being confident that they’re protected. But the results of two new surveys suggest that they’re still at risk of financial exploitation.

In a survey of over 1,500 Canadians, Equifax Canada found 92% agree that fraud and identity theft is a serious issue. But in contrast to that finding, only 72% of respondents said they felt vulnerable to fraudsters online, on the go, at home, and in-store; similar polls conducted by the firm in 2017 and 2019 found 80% of respondents expressing that concern.

The decreased sense of exposure was seen across multiple channels. Among those using public WiFi, ATMs, and other on-the-go channels, only 44% said they felt unsafe today, compared to 59% in 2019; in the at-home segment, just 27% felt vulnerable, compared to 37% in 2019. The in-store category showed similar levels of complacency as only 25% said they feel vulnerable today, versus 38% in 2019.

And while one of the best ways to detect identity theft is to check credit reports, just 29% of the participants in the latest survey said they’ve done so to help protect their personal data over the last 12 months. Furthermore, just under four tenths (38%) said they would contact a credit bureau to report fraud.

“Hackers, fraudsters and identity thieves are always on the hunt to get your personal information,” said Julie Kuzmic, Director of Consumer Advocacy, Equifax Canada. “I’m particularly concerned for younger adults who may be misguided in some of their beliefs and actions surrounding identity theft.”

The survey found that millennials aged 18 to 34 years old were more likely to report attitudes and behaviours that put them at risk, including:

  • “I’m not a target of fraudsters because I don’t have enough money” (45% of millennials vs. 27% of other respondents);
  • “I don’t need to worry about credit card fraud because I won’t be charged for the fraudulent activity” (43% vs. 30%);
  • “I have accidentally clicked on a fraudulent link from an e-mail or text message” (43% vs. 37%); and
  • “Identity theft happens to other people, it’s not likely to happen to me” (22% vs. 13%)

Meanwhile, drawing from a panel of over 2,200 respondents, the newly released Interac Fraud Prevention Index found that Canadians have high levels of confidence in their ability to recognize fraud (71%), and the same percentage expressed a desire to know more to protect themselves.

But despite that cautious mindset, many are exposing themselves to fraud by engaging in risky behaviours, including :

  • Clicking on a link from an unknown source (36% of all respondents);
  • Accessing online banking though a public WiFi network (33%); and
  • Not changing online banking or email passwords regularly (52%)

“Our study shows that Canadians are being targeted non-stop through a wide range of channels – phone, email, text and social media,” said Rachel Jolicoeur, Director, Fraud Prevention & Partnerships at Interac. “Nearly half of Canadians or their families (48 per cent) report falling victim to fraud, emphasizing the importance of Canadians to stop, scrutinize and speak up to avoid scams.”

The most commonly reported schemes across the country included fraudulent emails (45%) and phone scams (44%). Among the provinces, text message fraud was most prevalent in Quebec (44%); in major cities, Montreal was found to have the highest rate of incidence of identity theft (16%).


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