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Common types of fraud & scams you should know about

 3 minute read


older woman of Asian descent sitting in a darkened room lit by the light of her laptop

Scammers are always looking for new, unsuspecting victims to con with their elaborate schemes – and unfortunately, they have gotten harder to detect at first glance. But there is good news: if you know what warning signs and red flags to look for, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from falling for scams.

Who do scammers target?

No one is immune to falling for a scam. But there are some who are more susceptible to being targeted by scammers because of the pre-conception that they are inherently easier to fool, including:

  • Senior citizens
  • Newcomers to Canada
  • Children/teenagers

Scammers adapt their tactics as people get wiser to their strategies, so it’s best to keep up to date on fraud prevention.

Why do people fall for scams?

There are a variety of reasons why fraud works, but being a victim of a scam doesn’t mean you aren’t smart or easy to fool. Scammers manipulate people’s emotions to get the outcome they want and are often unsuspecting while doing it.

Remember: anyone can be a victim of a scam, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

What are the signs of a scam or fraud?

These schemes vary widely in what they offer or request, but many have common threads, including:

  • Demanding immediate payment in exchange for a service or product
  • Requesting payment with alternative means, like cryptocurrency or gift cards
  • Using threatening and aggressive language to persuade victims
  • Sending a link to click on through email or SMS
  • Asking for personal or financial information on digital platforms or by phone

Knowing these signs will help you avoid becoming a victim of a scam.

Payment vs. Harvest Scams

Often, scams fall into one of two categories for gain: a payment scam, or a harvest scam.

A payment scam means that the fraudster is benefiting from an upfront payment without providing an expected product or service in return.

A harvest scam means that the fraudster is targeting someone for personally identifiable information, or PII, including passwords, birthdates, etc., to steal their identity.

Common Types of Scams

As listed by NICE Actimize in partnership with The Knoble, here are the most common types of fraud and scams happening right now.

Type: Payment

A fraudster calls members of a financial institution pretending to be the FI and asks the member to provide the 2SV code that just arrived on the customer’s mobile phone.

Type: Payment

This occurs when a customer is promised money (e.g., a loan), in return for an up-front payment, in which the fraudster requires to obtain the larger sum.

Example: A customer makes payments to a fraudster expecting to receive something of greater value in return.

Type: Payment

A fraudster compromises an executive’s email account and sends an email to one of its company’s employees telling them they need to send either money or gift cards to a bank account. Authorized members will execute this transaction. The transaction could be going overseas for the first time, first time to new country and maybe the amount is higher than normal.

Type: Payment

After natural disasters or major events, a scammer impersonates authentic charities and asks for donations, or contacts targets claiming to collect donations. The charity’s name will be unfamiliar, or the fraud charity will be copying the branding of a recognizable, legitimate entity.

Type: Payment

A victim finds a fake online posting on an online sale site, such as Craigslist, Kijiji, or Facebook Marketplace, for a certain item. They make a payment, but don’t receive their item.

Type: Payment

The scammer entices the victim into fake investment in cryptocurrency. Scammers will use a consumer’s general lack of knowledge on crypto, or a fake romantic relationship to build the consumers trust to participate in the fraudster’s scheme.

Type: Payment

A fraudster sends an email to a victim, claiming to be a friend or relative needing monetary help and asks for money (or gift cards). There is usually a sense of urgency involved with the request.

Type: Payment / Harvesting

The victim believes they are getting a job. The fake position is typically listed as payroll or back-office company work. Victims are instructed to deposit ‘company’ checks to their personal accounts and then to send funds out. Checks are typically counterfeit, returning on the victim’s account and resulting in overdraft.

Harvesting: Victims find employment online advertised by bad actors often for higher than market wages. Customers are misled to share their PII and online banking credentials for purpose of receiving their “paycheck” for employment.

Type: Payment

A scammer attempts to get money from bank customers based on threat/blackmail.

Example: Sending fraudulent payment based on instructions from fraudster claiming to have kidnapped customer’s grandchild.

Type: Payment

A fraudster texts a parent as one of their children, giving them a new mobile phone number. Parent is asked to make a payment for child because “my bank account is still tied to my old phone number”.

Type: Payment / Harvesting

A bad actor, usually posing as a law firm or probate attorney, uses a tale of a person who is now deceased and has left their estate to the intended victim of the scam. Customers are misled to share their online banking credentials for the purpose of receiving their “inheritance”. This scam can also request money from the victim.

Type: Payment

Someone presents themselves as investment brokers and convinces customers to send money for phony or illegal investments that offer high and/or guarantee rates of return. This category includes Ponzi schemes.

Type: Payment

A fraudster compromises a vendor email account and sends an email to the vendor’s customer telling them there is a new bank account to be used to send future invoice payments.

Type: Harvesting

A scammer posing as technical/customer support convinces customers to let them download remote access software on customer’s PC to ‘fix’ the PC. This allows the fraudster to copy customer’s online credentials.

Type: Harvesting

Victims share online banking credentials expecting to receive a personal loan. These scammers will usually offer guaranteed approvals without doing any credit check. Usually, these fraudulent companies are found online.

Type: Payment / Harvesting

Victims receive an unexpected notification by email, phone call, or mail that they’ve won sum of money in lottery. To receive their “winnings”, the victim shares account information/online banking credentials with the scammer, so “winnings” can be disbursed to them, or the victim will be asked to send funds to “cover the taxes.”

Type: Payment

Like cryptocurrency and romance scams, this scam starts with building a friendship or romantic relationship with the victim. The scammer then starts to convince the victim to invest in phony investments, including fraudulent cryptocurrency schemes, before falsely claiming the initial investment grew significantly.

The scammer then asks for more and more money and demands multiple types of fees if a victim requests to withdraw the funds. Even when the victim pays the withdrawal fees, the money isn’t refunded, but rather disappears with the funds without any further communication.

Type: Payment

A scammer buys something from a victim and sends a check with too much money. Then, they request that overpayment refund from the victim before bank clears the fake check.

Type: Payment

The practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies invite people to reveal sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Can involve link that 1) takes customer to bogus bank site to enter PII data or online credentials or) is used to download malware.

Type: Payment

The victim is finding rental/vacation property online, which turns out to be fake. The victim is instructed by the fraudster, who listed the posting, to send payment to their account.

Type: Payment

An impersonation scam in which the scammer poses as a real company. During a phone conversation, they will have the victim log in to online banking and share their access. The scammer will then transfer funds from account to account and show a falsified webpage to make it appear that the victim was overpaid for a refund. The scammer will then convince the victim to send funds through gift cards or wires. The victim will unknowingly send their own money.

Type: Payment

A victim goes to an online dating platform to find love. They make a match with a scammer. Fraudster uses psychology to manipulate the victim into “online love”. After a while, the fraudster asks the victim for money. The victim then sends money one or multiple times to the fraudster’s account.

Type: Harvesting / Payment

A scammer sends a text message pretending to be a financial institution, asking the member if they just did a transaction. Member texts back no. Fraudster then calls the customer to explain how this transaction can be reversed. Or the fraudster may ask the customer to obtain gift cards, involving a cash withdrawal at the branch. Fraudsters may move conversation to phone and direct user to make a transaction while fraudster is on the phone.

Or the scammer sends a text message purportedly from the victim’s bank and will ask for them to confirm their personal information.

Type: Harvesting

The fraudulent practice of making phone calls or leaving voice messages purporting to be from reputable companies, to get people to reveal personal information, such as PII, bank details and credit card numbers.

What to do if you encounter a scam

Think you’ve interacted with a scammer, and need to know what to do next? Report it to the Canadian Government’s Anti-Fraud Centre to investigate it. The CAFC estimates under 5% of all fraud gets reported, so it's important to bring awareness if you think someone has tried to scam you.

From offering a secure online banking system, to training and educating our team members on fraud scams and detection practices, we offer our members secure experience from start to finish. Learn more about how to protect yourself against scams on our security hub.