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Protecting Yourself from Fraud and Scams

Feb 1, 2023 8:00:00 AM The MacMillan Estate Planning Team Estate Planning, Trust Planning, CRA phone scams, CRA email scams, Protection against fraud and scams, Email scams, Phone scams, Fraud, Protecting your assets

In our increasingly online world, fraudulent schemers and scammers have become more sophisticated in their attempts to steal personal information and money from unsuspecting, innocent victims – especially older populations with potentially large sums of money in the bank. In 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported there were 92,371 older victims of fraud in the United States alone, resulting in $1.7 Billion in losses – a 74 per cent increase compared to 2020! Canada has seen similar numbers, with a reported $383.6 Million in losses in 2021 to fraud.

Understanding some of these schemes, identifying potentially fraudulent emails, phone calls and messages and having a trusted advisor in your corner are crucial tools for protecting yourself and your most vulnerable information from these would-be thieves.

Popular Fraud Schemes

  1. Computer/device tech support scams

This popular tactic preys on people’s lack of knowledge with regards to computers and cybersecurity. Typically, a victim will see a pop up on their computer or phone alerting them to a perceived problem with their device or an account, along with a provided phone number to contact for help with this issue. Once the scammer gets a victim on the line, they will demand payment and/or access to your device before they can resolve your issue.

  1. Government/service impersonation scams

These scams entail fraudsters posing as agents of an agency or government entity, like the CRA in Canada or the IRS in the United States, and will claim that potential victims owe the agency or government entity money – typically unpaid taxes. They may threaten victims with potential jail time or deportation unless they pay back these allegedly owed funds, or claim that social security benefits may be cut off.

  1. The grandparent scam

This scam takes advantage of older people’s compassion and love for their grandchildren, tricking would-be victims into believing the scammer on the phone or on the other end of an email conversation is one of their grandchildren. Scammers will pose as a grandchild and ask for money for some immediate need – a repair, bond for jail, or something else – and ask for payment to be sent immediately. In these cases, victims get caught up in the emotion of the moment and the phone call and can send money before realizing they don’t totally recognize the voice on the other end of the call or the email address the messages are coming from.

While these are some popular schemes, this is not an exhaustive list of every scheme out there. Romance schemes, where victims are duped into believing they are in an online relationship with someone while the scammer convinces them to send them money and provide them with their personal information are also increasingly popular, as are tried-and-true schemes like fraudulent investments and fake lottery scams.

How to protect yourself from scams and fraud

  1. Avoid click links from website pop-ups or emails – type the website URL you are trying to visit directly into your internet browser.
  2. Never divulge your personal information that a company, agency or entity should already have. Companies, agencies and entities will never cold call you and demand your personal information or passwords.
  3. Always ask for a case or reference number whenever possible when you are dealing with a company, agency or other entity. This way, you can hang up and call the alleged company back yourself and confirm whether the person you were speaking with is a legitimate company representative, or a fraudster after your personal information and/or money.
  4. Always be wary of inbound, unexpected communications, and think critically about what you are being asked. Reputable companies will never ask for payment with gift cards or a bank transfer and will never proactively reach out and ask for your personal or financial information over the phone or via email.
Finally, having a trusted estate planner can help protect you from scams and frauds as it provides you with a contact you can always reach out and vet suspect communications through. At MacMillan Estate Planning, our clients can always reach out to their estate planner with any questions or concerns, providing our clients peace of mind that someone is in their corner watching out for them and helping to protect and safeguard their significance.

At MacMillan Estate Planning, our team of professional trust and estate practitioners, chartered accountants, financial planners, and legal professionals look forward to assisting you with the design of your estate plan and will ensure you build, protect, and enjoy your wealth. The information provided is general and may not be suited to your objectives or sufficient to ensure the protection of you and your family. You should not act on this information without providing MacMillan Estate Planning with the opportunity to ensure that it is suitable for your unique situation.

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