What to do if you’ve been scammed

If you find yourself a victim of a scam, there are some important steps you need to take:

  • Don’t panic: You’re going to feel stressed, confused and angry. Take a moment to compose yourself and gather your thoughts.
  • Collect important documents: Any emails, account statements, text messages or other documents you have relating to the scam should be gathered together and kept in a safe place. You’re going to need all the relevant information when reporting the scam.
  • Contact your financial institution: Make sure your bank is aware of the scam and have them flag your accounts so more damage can’t be done.
  • Change your passwords: Any passwords linked to important accounts (such as your bank account) should be changed.
  • Report the fraud to the credit bureaus: Ensure that both Equifax and TransUnion are aware of the fraud, as your credit score can be affected.
  • Contact the local police: They will provide you with a case number, and any subsequent suspicious activity can be added to that file.
  • Report the scam: Inform the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501) of the incident. Also let any other parties that the scam may impact know about the scam, like website administrators or Canada Post.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre provides further details about what to do in specific instances, such as if your Social Insurance Number or passport is stolen.

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What the bank is responsible for

In the U.K, a new law has been proposed that will require banks to reimburse victims of authorized push payment (APP) scams. These scams involve individuals being deceived into sending money electronically to a fraudster’s account, an action that can’t be undone.

In Canada, there is no move to make it a law that banks repay victims of such fraud. Despite this, many banks offer digital banking guarantees that protect the customer.

Financial institutions offer various forms of protection for your online transactions. These include:

  • Secure firewalls to protect internal servers and personal information
  • Digital encryption to prevent cyberattacks
  • Continual monitoring of systems to ensure no irregular activity or breaches
  • Continual upgrading and implementation of security measures like multi-step authentication and automatic sign out

If you lose access to an account or discover an unauthorized electronic transaction, some banks will fully reimburse you. TD, Scotiabank, RBC, CIBC and BMO are among the banks that all have confirmed policies stated on their site. However, reimbursement may be subject to conditions. Therefore it is important you exercise your due diligence to avoid being scammed in the first place.

What you are responsible for

As a customer, the bank expects you to do what you can to prevent fraud and scams.

While each bank’s requirements vary, there are some universal steps you should take to protect your account:

  • Create a unique online banking password.
  • Create a unique online access code.
  • Keep all your banking card numbers, passwords, access codes and other security information private. Do not share them with anybody.
  • If you lose any bank cards or information or experience a suspected loss, notify the bank immediately.
  • Keep your computer and mobile banking devices secure by updating regularly.
  • Review all banking statements when they become available to ensure no errors.
  • Never respond to internet sites or pop-ups that request personal banking information.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails, phone calls, texts or other communications that request personal information.

It’s important that you take proactive steps to protect yourself against online scams and fraud. The Canadian government offers a free cybersecurity checkup that is a quick way to ensure you’re taking appropriate steps to protect your identity online.

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Recognizing a scam

With so much business and interaction being conducted online, sometimes it’s difficult to recognize a scam. The general rule is that if you receive any suspicious or unsolicited contact — especially if it requests personal information — it’s probably a scam.

Whether it’s the Canada Revenue Agency or your bank, legitimate agencies will not contact you requesting personal information before advising you.

Whenever conducting business online or by phone, keep these tips in mind:

  • It’s OK to say no: If you’re uncertain if something is a scam, you can simply say no. If you feel harassed or under pressure, chances are it’s a scam, so your best course of action is to back away.
  • Beware of parties asking for money: Websites, text messages and phone scams can often appear as though they’re coming from legitimate places. But if they ask for money before providing a service, a red flag should be raised. Banks and government agencies will never ask for upfront fees.
  • Protect your personal information: Never give out your Social Insurance Number (SIN), passwords, banking or other private information, including passwords for online accounts.
  • Protect your online identity: Close browser windows and delete internet history if using public computers. Use multi-step identification for online services and create strong passwords.

TIP: Passwords should be unique to individual websites, and should be a complex series of numbers, letters and symbols. Be sure to write unique passwords down and store them in a safe place, and consider using a password manager to help you keep track of them.

Being the victim of a scam can not only be upsetting and embarrassing, but it can also have severe consequences in your life. Remember, no matter what transpires, you always have options and recourse.

Be sure to take steps to safeguard yourself against online scams, and if you feel you have been the victim of a fraud, contact your financial institution and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre as soon as possible.


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James Battiston Content Specialist

James Battiston has been writing personal finance articles for various websites for the past four years. He has a background in film and TV production, and can often be found consuming far too much coffee.

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