Millennials are more likely than older Canadians to be the targets or victims of financial fraud, a new survey suggests.

Almost half (47%) of all Canadians have been scammed or have been targeted by fraudsters — with e-mail being the main line of attack — but the number rises to 55% among those 18 to 34 years old, according to a recent poll commissioned by Scotiabank. Among respondents 35 or older, roughly 45% said they had been targeted or defrauded.

It’s a counterintuitive finding given how digital-savvy the Millennial generation is, but a sense of security with technology may be a factor, said Eric Lindsay, Director of Business Intelligence & Reporting at Scotiabank’s Enterprise Fraud Management division. The higher digital adoption rate among this demographic may also be a contributing factor.

"Overall, I think there’s an apprehension towards some of these modern-age digital mediums (among older Canadians). For 18- to 34-year-olds, they grew up with this technology, they didn’t have to learn to adapt to it, which influences their level of trust with what they're seeing.”

Among the survey’s other findings was that nearly 60% of Canadians are concerned about falling victim to fraud this holiday season. The fraud-protection practice respondents say they are most likely to implement over the holidays is not responding to unsolicited emails/text (92%), followed by only conducting online shopping/banking from trusted devices (89%) and shopping only from reputable online retailers (88%).  Just over half (53%) of Canadians plan to sign up for info/fraud alerts this holiday season.

Banks are heavily invested in protecting their customers, while consumers are becoming much more aware and diligent when it comes to their online behaviours, which is important to combat this type of fraud activity.  

To protect yourself while shopping online, Lindsay recommends buying from reputable merchant websites.

“We should be questioning things. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Lindsay said.

He adds that Scotiabank’s cyber security teams employ sophisticated technologies to identify, protect, detect and respond to fraud attempts, as well as help the public to better protect themselves. Scotiabank also maintains a fraud hotline so customers can report if they have been a victim of fraud.

The finding that Millennials are more susceptible to fraud attempts is in line with a recent report by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which said that people in their 20s and 30s are 25% more likely to report losing money to fraud than people 40 and over. Online shopping fraud was the top method they reported losing money to, followed by business-imposter and government-imposter scams, according to the FTC.

In Canada, thousands of people lose millions of dollars to fraud every year and fraudsters’ attacks are becoming more sophisticated. Between January 2014 and December 2017, Canadians lost more than $405 million to fraudsters, according to a February 2018 report by the Canadian Competition Bureau.

“While scam artists continue to use traditional techniques by telephone, email and in person, they have also latched on to social media platforms to target a new demographic: Millennials and Generation Z,” the Bureau said in the report. “Despite being tech savvy, this demographic has such a strong presence on social media that they have become natural targets for fraudsters.”

Social commerce — a subset of online shopping that involves purchases made through social media platforms — is becoming more common, but the vast majority (85%) in the Scotiabank survey said they have not made such a purchase.

Millennials were significantly more likely than their older counterparts to have bought something via social media at 26%, compared to 15% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 8% of those 55 or older. Of those who have done some social media shopping, 63% say they have fallen victim to fraud or been targeted.  

Lindsay encouraged consumers to inform themselves about fraud, what they can do to avoid it and who to talk to if it happens. In addition to fraud prevention tips on Scotiabank’s website, the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) offers helpful advice to avoid various scams.

The online survey of 1,519 Canadian adults was commissioned by Scotiabank and conducted by Maru/Blue from Nov. 25 to Nov. 26, 2019.

Top tips to avoid fraud:

  • Do NOT respond to unsolicited e-mails, web sites or text messages that request personal information.
  • Do NOT trust unusual or high-pressure telephone calls, especially if they want you to reveal personal information.
  • Do NOT share your banking passwords with anyone. Your bank will never call you or send you unsolicited emails asking for your password, PIN, credit card, account numbers etc.
  • Do NOT open attachments or click on hyperlinks in emails or text messages sent by unknown senders.
  • Do NOT call any numbers that appear on an e-mail you think is fraudulent.
  • DO report any suspicious requests to your bank right away.
  • DO use passwords that are hard to guess. Memorize them, or keep them in a safe location if you have to keep them written down.
  • DO protect your computer, by downloading security software and anti-virus software, protect your internet connection and using supported browsers. See Scotiabank’s Safe Computing Practices to learn more.