CPA study reveals that most people are taking extra steps to protect their finances
A crisis frequently provides new opportunity for fraudsters to act, seizing on disruption and weakened defences among consumers.
But while the past year has given criminals opportunity on a global scale, the growth in online financial fraud is not new and Canadians are taking the threat increasingly seriously.
A new survey from Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) shows that 73% of individuals say they have been targeted by fraudsters at some time in their life with one third having fallen victim.
But it also shows that almost two thirds of respondents said they are doing more to protect themselves than they were five years ago.
"Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting Canadians, therefore, vigilance in protecting yourself is essential," says Doretta Thompson, CPA Canada's Financial Literacy Leader. "With our lives increasingly being lived online due to COVID-19's new world, it's more important than ever for Canadians to be diligent, on alert and safeguarding their private information."
As March begins next week, so does the 17th annual Fraud Prevention Month in Canada.
Last year, the lead agency of the campaign, Competition Bureau Canada said that Canadians had lost almost $100 million in 2019 alone and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimated that only around 5% of fraud cases are reported to the authorities.
Tips to share with clients
CPA Canada says there are four key ways that people can boost their resilience against financial fraud:
- Be careful when conducting online activities
According to the survey, more than half of respondents (52 per cent) are concerned about the online businesses they deal with being vulnerable to cyberattacks. In cases where it's necessary to provide personal information, it's important to only do so on secure websites, which 70 per cent of respondents are already doing. An easy way to check if a website is secure is by looking for the padlock icon in your web browser – if it is locked, the website is secure.
- Protect your passwords
Password protection remains an area for improvement for many Canadians, as 51 per cent of survey respondents opt to memorize their passwords. It's important to store passwords in a secure place and to shred all documents containing personal information, which 75 per cent of the survey participants reported doing.
- Do not respond to calls and texts from unrecognized numbers
Since telemarketing fraud remains one of the most common types, it's important to screen calls and texts from unknown numbers. According to the survey, 38 per cent of respondents reported answering calls from unrecognized numbers. Text messages are much easier to screen, with just over one in ten (11 per cent) respondents replying to texts from unknown numbers.
- Monitor your credit card and banking transactions
It's important to review and track your banking and credit card transactions at least once a month to monitor for illegitimate activities. While about eight in ten respondents (82 per cent) already review their transaction history on a monthly basis, only 39 per cent have set up text or email alerts for banking and credit card transactions, which can help them catch fraudulent activity right away.