Fraud fighters want to hear from you
The shame and embarrassment of being caught by a scammer is one of the main reasons why only about five per cent of fraud is reported to the authorities, according to Josephine Palumbo, deputy commissioner of competition, deceptive marketing practices at Canada’s Competition Bureau.
But as one of the three pillars of the national campaign to combat fraud, it’s essential to increase the rate of reporting through education and encouragement, she adds.
The “three Rs” – Recognize, Reject, Report – is the theme of Fraud Prevention Month, a public education campaign now in its 14th year under the auspices of the Fraud Prevention Forum, which is chaired by the Competition Bureau.
“The focus of Fraud Prevention Month continues to be on educating and informing Canadians and empowering them with information on how to recognize, reject and report fraud,” says Ms. Palumbo. “Recognizing and rejecting fraud is obviously key, but reporting is also very important because it’s how law enforcement authorities gather evidence to bring down fraudsters and better protect consumers and businesses.”
However, it is estimated that only five per cent of fraud is reported, which makes it very challenging for law enforcement agencies to do their job and to get ahead of perpetrators of fraud and to stop them before they cause harm, she adds.
“We find that many people feel embarrassed or ashamed after being defrauded and are unwilling to report the crime. In other cases, they don’t want to take the time because they think it’s more effort than it’s worth, but the Competition Bureau has some very helpful online tools to assist consumers to report fraud and file complaints. What people should understand is that by reporting fraud, they are preventing others from becoming victims of fraud,” says Ms. Palumbo.
She points out that fraud is a crime that threatens every Canadian irrespective of education, age or income. In 2017, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the Competition Bureau received 70,000 complaints, and in the three years from 2014 to 2017, Canadians lost an estimated $405-million, of which $94-million was lost by seniors in the 60 to 79 age group.
While scamming techniques in the past tended to use the telephone, emails and door-to-door calls to entrap victims, the rise of social media has given fraudsters new tools to target a younger demographic, such as millennials and Generation Z.
“We are seeing a growing number of complaints related to cyber crime as criminals learn to use the latest platforms and technologies to commit fraud, things like phishing, smishing, emergency scams and wire fraud,” says Ms. Palumbo adding that the best defence is vigilance and knowledge.
“For example, we advise Canadians to be careful when giving credit card or bank account details when buying online. Read the fine print, check the url, do some research on the product and vendor, be skeptical. Even if a product seems to be endorsed by a celebrity, don’t assume it’s true,” she says.
But if someone does fall victim to fraud, they should report it to the Competition Bureau, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or local police immediately.
“If you see something that doesn’t seem right, then report it. You have nothing to lose, and you’ll assist law enforcement agencies in stopping fraudsters and preventing other people from becoming victims of fraud,” says Ms. Palumbo.
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