March as Fraud Prevention Month has taken on new urgency for Canadian and provincial police forces thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has changed how Canadians shop, conduct business, learn and interact with each other,” the OPP said in a news release.
“As a result, a significant shift has been made to utilize technology, which has resulted in considerable positive changes. However, this has not come without a cost. This past year, numerous Canadians, businesses and organizations have fallen victim to the destructive toll of cyber-enabled crimes.”
The statistics tell a grim story. Last year, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 67,294 fraud reports from Canadian consumers and businesses. Of these, 9,858 involved Ontarians who were bilked out of $47 million. The loss nation-wide is pegged at $104.2 million.
The amount lost to fraud is believed to be much higher. Police estimate they hear from only five per cent of people who have been defrauded.
“Fraudsters have embraced technologies to engage, target and exploit victims, often with devastating financial and emotional effects,” the OPP release says. “All Canadians can take basic steps to better protect themselves from becoming a victim of fraud.”
Police offer the following tips to protect against fraud:
- Protect access to your computer through the use of strong passwords.
- Authenticate the source of unsolicited emails and ensure they are reputable before clicking on links or attachments.
- Limit the amount of personal information shared publicly on social media.
- Ensure that cyber-security software is engaged and updated regularly to deal with new threats.
Those who fall victim to fraud or suspect the same are encouraged to contact their local police detachment. Victims should also contact the Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. Victims are encouraged to contact authorities even if financial loss has not occurred.