Common ScamsFind out what the schemers and scammers are up to lately
Suspect suspicious activity?
- Fake Emails & Texts
- Fake Websites & Mobile Apps
- Job Scams & Cheque Fraud
- Mail Fraud
- Phone Fraud
- E-commerce Scams
- Romance Scams
This is a type of identity theft where criminals use email to try to bait you into fake or hoax websites. Once there, you are asked to disclose confidential financial and personal information, like passwords, credit card numbers, access codes or Social Insurance Numbers.
Emails tend to look authentic, featuring corporate logos and layouts similar to the ones used by institutions for legitimate communication. Because these emails can look so official, unsuspecting recipients may reply to them, resulting in financial losses, identity theft and other fraudulent activity.
Learn how to recognize a phony email, and prevent being scammed.
Scam artists have also found a way to send fraudulent messages to mobile phones. Smishing is similar to phishing, except that it is received via text message or SMS (Short Message Service).
Keep in mind all the points mentioned above when speaking about phishing. The intention behind text message phishing is the same as regular email phishing and the content and tone of the message is very similar.
Many scams involve fraudsters sending cleverly disguised e-mails or creating fake online ads to obtain your credit card details or to sell you something that isn't as advertised. They trick you into believing that you're dealing with a reputable company.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada suggests that you pay attention to a few things before deciding whether to purchase something on a website you don't often visit:
- Does the website look poorly designed? Does it have broken links?
- Can you find an address or phone number listed for the business?
- Are there clear sales, return, and privacy policies on the site?
- Is the back button disabled? If you're stuck on a page and can't go back, it’s usually a red flag.
- Are you being asked for your credit card information before you make a purchase?
An increasing number of retailers and service providers require or encourage you to download an app to make a purchase. However, apps can also be faked to get you to share private information.
The Canadian Bankers Association recommends that you look for the following before downloading and using an app:
- Is the name of the app publisher the same name as the retail app? Is the spelling correct?
- Does the app have user feedback and ratings?
- Does the app require a significant number of permissions to install?
- Does the app have multiple pop up ads or does it keep prompting you for your personal information?
If you’re ever in doubt about whether a website or an app is legitimate, use Google to search for the company website and send an email, or make a phone call to the direct contact listed on their website.
Go to Advice+ to learn more about how to protect yourself against fake websites and mobile apps.
When it comes to job scams and cheque fraud, fraudsters focus their efforts on individuals looking for jobs, or those trying to sell items for extra cash. Both scams are easy to avoid.
Here’s what to look for.
Protecting yourself from a job scam
The internet makes searching for jobs easier than ever, but be careful of job opportunities that sound too good to be true. Fraudsters behind these job scams eagerly recruit new hires, making the interview process appear professional and legitimate.
Once the candidate has been accepted for the position, the fraudster will ask for personal information, including your Social Insurance Number (SIN), driver's licence or passport, and banking information.
Here are some red flags to look for:
- “Employers” are reaching out to you even when you didn't apply to the job.
- The emails they use are from generic email accounts rather than company accounts (i.e., Ryanpeters@gmail.com vs. Ryanpeters@legitimatecompany.com).
- The person interviewing you is also managing all the Human Resource onboarding processes.
- The job listing is not located on the company website. Legitimate companies that use listing platforms to post available job description will also have the job posting on their company website.
- You're hired without a proper interview being conducted.
- The pay seems too good to be true.
- They ask for a money transfer or expect you to pay for equipment up front.
- They don't want to meet in person or virtually. Regardless of the situation, a company should have safe protocols for a new employee's in-person or virtual onboarding.
When in doubt, reject the job offer and search for opportunities on company websites that you know and trust.
Protecting yourself from a cheque scam
Whether you list an online ad for local sale or through a website, scammers will typically:
- Offer to pay more than the requested price.
- Ask you to ship items to a different location.
Fraudsters will send you a cheque or money order to purchase your item, but for an amount larger than your asking price. They will claim the extra money is to cover shipping or customs fees that you must send to a third party, or simply that they sent the wrong amount by accident. Fraudsters will then ask you to deposit their cheque and refund them the balance. These cheques are usually fraudulent and results in you losing both your items and hard-earned money.
Beware of buyers who are sending you more money than you’re asking for. Don't accept payment over and above the cost of your item as listed online and opt for direct e-transfers, cash, or certified cheques for payment.
Go to Advice+ to learn more about how to protect yourself against job scams and cheque fraud.
With the popularity of email and the Internet, we often forget about the good old postal system. However, scam artists haven’t forgotten and still use the mail system to commit fraud.
The most common type of mail fraud is when you are asked to send money and receive nothing in return. For example:
- Get-rich quick schemes
- Fake charity solicitations asking for donations
- Prize winnings that require you to pay for shipping expenses
The envelope and letter may look official, but always remember, you should never provide your personal information in a reply envelope, or include cheques or cash, unless you initiated the communication yourself or have positively verified the source.
Once thieves have obtained your name and personal information, they can go on to apply for credit cards and other financial products in your name, ultimately incurring debts. Learn more about Identity Theft.
- Collect your mail promptly after delivery
- Advise your local post office immediately if you change your address
- Have your local post office hold your mail if you’re going to be out of town
- Ensure your mailbox is locked or not accessible to anyone but yourself
- Pay attention to late or missing bills, and follow-up with the company
Whenever you answer the phone and it’s someone you don’t know on the other end, take extra precaution. Scam artists are known to pose as representatives from government agencies, local police services, legitimate financial institutions, and other types of companies in attempt to defraud customers.
The most common phone scams involve:
- Malicious actors impersonating government agencies such as Revenue Canada or local police services
- Get-rich quick schemes vague in nature with no apparent risk
- Fake charity solicitations asking for donations
- Prize winnings that require you to pay for shipping expenses
- Hang up on suspicious calls immediately
- Never give out account or personal information over the phone
- If you aren’t sure about the organization or person calling, confirm their number online from a public resource and call back
- If you aren’t sure it’s really Scotiabank calling, hang up and call 1-800-4-SCOTIA (1-800-472-6842) and report it to us; for a list of ways to connect with Scotiabank, please visit Contact Us
- If you believe the fraudster poses a risk to your personal safety, call your local police
Another form of phone fraud is called vishing.
The term comes from “voice” and “phishing.” Vishing uses telephone communications in combination with email or the internet to steal information and money from unsuspecting consumers.
There are a few different methods con artists use. Typically, you are contacted by either a recorded phone message or by email and directed to call a phone number or go to a website to enter personal information.
Always remember that Scotiabank will never send you unsolicited emails or SMS messages asking for confidential information, such as your password, PIN, Access Code, credit card, and account numbers.
We will never ask you to validate or restore your account access through email or pop-up windows.
Here's a list of common e-commerce scams that you should be aware of, and what to do to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
At some point, you've probably received an email that just didn't seem right. Phishing emails can come from fake e-commerce stores, financial institutions, or service providers.
Phishing doesn’t stop with emails. Fraudsters can also send text messages and make fake phone calls to trick you into divulging your personal and financial information, also known as vishing (phone phishing) and smishing (SMS phishing)
Pagejacking is when hackers create a fraudulent web page that mimics a legitimate existing site. By mimicking a site's login page, scammers are easily able to collect usernames and passwords.
Account takeover occurs when a fraudster uses stolen personal information to fraudulently gain access to your online or financial accounts. Once the scammer has access to your account, they can make unauthorized purchases, withdraw money, or even change the details of your account.
This type of scam occurs when a fraudster hacks your email to send a request for money to your friends and family. The email states that all your belongings were stolen while on vacation and could they please transfer money as soon as possible?
Online shopping fraud
Online shopping fraud occurs when a fake seller offers a product for a surprisingly low price or promises perks like free shipping with no intention of following through. Always keep in mind that anyone can set up an online shop. If the deal seems to good to be true, it probably is.
How to protect yourself from e-commerce scams
- Take some added time to pay attention to the details.
- Don't click on hyperlinks in emails or text messages that look suspicious, and don’t open attachments you weren’t expecting.
- Don't respond to unsolicited emails, texts, or any communication that requests personal or financial information.
- Before you make a purchase or send through any personal information, verify the legitimacy of the online store or organization.
- Keep your online passwords a secret and avoid common words and combinations.
- Keep copies of your online transactions and review your credit card bills to spot discrepancies or charges that you don't recognize. Consider switching to eStatements for added security.
Go to Advice+ to learn more about how to protect yourself against e-commerce scams.
What you need to know about romance scams
A romance scam, also commonly known as “catfishing”, is a fraud scheme, generally done via social media or through an online dating platform, wherein a scammer feigns romantic interest in a target, develops a “relationship” with that person, and ultimately swindles them for money. Seniors in particular are at high risk of being preyed upon in this way. While this is a growing concern, there are ways to avoid falling for this scam, and things you can do to limit the consequences, should you already be involved in one.
How to spot a romance scam?
The scammers committing these cons often follow a similar pattern of behaviour. Look out for red flags, such as:
- They won’t meet you in person, or even video chat.
- They profess their love and move the relationship forward very quickly.
- Their online profile is bare, with very few interactions with others, and few friends/followers.
- There are inconsistencies between what they post on their online profiles and what they tell you.
- They ask for personal or financial information, or intimate photos or videos. These can be later be used for blackmail.
- They ask for money for things like medical bills, education expenses, their phone bill so they can keep talking to you, or even their bus or airplane fare so that they can come see you. Be especially wary of any “urgent” requests for money.
What to do if you’ve been scammed?
If you suspect you may have become involved in a romance scam, stop all contact immediately, and alert the proper authorities. Provide your local police with as much information as possible and report the incident to Scotiabank (and any other financial institution you may have a compromised account with). Immediately put a stop to any outstanding payments.
Go to Advice+ to learn more about how to protect yourself against romance scams.