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Types and terms

Becoming familiar with the many types of scams and fraud is the first step to learning to spot fraud. Below are frequently asked questions and answers that you can reference at any time.

What’s the difference between fraud and scams?
A scam is a confidence game, swindle, or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit. 

Fraud is intentional dishonesty for the purpose of securing funds, access, or damage to another person. We often use these words interchangeably as both are crimes.
What is the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC)?
The Canadian Anti-fraud Centre (CAFC) is Canada's central source of information about fraud and provides information to law enforcement and governments in Canada and around the globe.

The CAFC is a partnership between the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Competition Bureau Canada. The Centre’s mission is to help Canadians learn about fraud including recognizing the signs and protecting themselves from fraud. 
How many reports of fraud were there in Canada in 2023?
In 2023, the CAFC reported more than 116,000 cases of fraud,  losses totaling $567 million, and more than 41,000 victims. According to the CAFC as the dollars lost from fraud rises, the rate of reporting remains low with only 5%-10% of victims reporting fraud.
Year # Reports #Victims Dollars lost 
2023 116,403 41.873 $567 million
2022 90,078 57,578 $530 million
2021 107,000 68,000 $383 million 
What are the most common types of fraud?
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), in 2022 these are the top 10 fraud listed by dollars lost and by number of reports.
Top 10 fraud by dollars list 
  1. Investment  ($308.6 million)
  2. Romance ($59.0 million)
  3. Spear Phishing ($58.1 million)
  4. Service fraud ($20.6 million)
  5. Extortion ($19.0 million)
  6. Emergency ($$9.4 million)
  7. Merchandise ($8.7 million)
  8. Job ($7.1 million)
  9. Bank Investigator ($6.7 million)
  10. Foreign Money Offer ($4.5 million) 
Top 10 reported scams 
1. Identity fraud (19,499 reports)

Identity theft refers to criminals stealing someone else's personal information for criminal purposes. Identity theft can be:
  •  Unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft
  •  More elaborate, such as phishing or database breaches
  • Computer spywares and viruses also help thieves steal personal information.
2. Phishing (10,603 reports)

Criminals use tactics to trick you into giving your personal information or clicking on links. These tactics could be:
  •    Email and website name spoofing
  •    Urgency
  •    Offers of refunds or money
  •    Seemingly "harmless" requests to click links, download attachments or fill out forms online
  •    Instructions to scan a QR code
3. Extortion (8,240 reports)
  • Extortion happens when someone unlawfully obtains money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution through coercion.
4. Personal Information (8,083 reports)

A scammer, pretending to be from a business, government agency, a bank, or utility company, urgently asks you to verify your personal information. They may request information such as:\
  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your birth date
  • Your account information
  • Your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
Once you provide this information, the scammer may use it for identity fraud.Never provide personal information over the phone, online or through email in response to an unsolicited request.

5. Service fraud (6,255 reports)

There are a variety of service scams, including:
  • Financial services
  • Telecommunications
  • Insurance
  • Tech support scams
  • Immigration scams
Some of the more common service scams reported to the CAFC include:
  • Air duct cleaning
  • Cellphone service provider
  • Help with government documents
  • Immigration website
  • Low interest rate offers
  • Pardon
  • Resale
6. Investment fraud (4,631 reports)

An investment scam is any solicitation for investments into false or deceptive investment opportunities. These opportunities falsely promise higher-than-normal returns. However, investors lose most or all their money.

7. Bank Investigator (4,631 reports)

A scammer calls you to ask for your help to catch a bank employee who has been stealing money or claims to be helping you resolve suspicious transactions on your bank account.

8. Counterfeit Merchandise (3,960 reports)

Scammers are constantly creating fake ads online. A good rule of thumb: if the asking price of a product is too good to be true, it is.
To reach potential victims, they use:
  • classified ads sites
  • resale sites
  • website pop-ups
  • fake company websites
Items offered for sale in these scams can be almost anything, including:
  • event tickets
  • puppies
  • electronic equipment
  • clothing
  • apartment, cottage, or vacation rentals
  • motor vehicle
9. Merchandise (3,935 reports) 

Counterfeiters use websites that have the same look and feel as a legitimate manufacturer to sell products at big discounts. The products are far inferior and could pose significant health risks. For example, counterfeit jackets have been found to contain bacteria, fungus and mildew.

Red flags to watch for:
  • Warnings posted online
  • No customer phone number or email listed on the website
  • An odd or different name on your credit card statement
  • The transaction is in different currency
  • The product packaging has no labels
  • The quality of product is bad
  • The price is hugely discounted
10. Vendor Fraud (3,141 reports)

If you've posted an online ad for yourself or your business, you may be contacted by a scammer. They claim to be located out of town and offer to buy the item unseen. When it comes time to pay, they use various tactics to scam you and avoid paying.
Why do people fall for fraud?
People can be vulnerable to fraud for all types of reasons — and scam artists are good at finding and exploiting all of them. Here are a few reasons why someone might fall victim:
  1. People want to believe they can get something for nothing—such as free gifts and prizes so they may be more vulnerable to these offers.

  2. We want to have faith in the information our friends and relatives tell us. Fraudsters prey on our loyalty to the important people in our lives and leverage this trust to swindle us.

  3. Fraud artists are very convincing and good at what they do, so their websites, ads, and brochures look genuine.

  4. Fraud artists use legitimate sales tactics in their pitches, so it can be difficult to see through them. They often use tactics such as a limited time offers or use false peer pressure to get us to participate by saying that all of our friends are investing.

  5. Often, fraudsters warn us not to call the government, regulators, and banks. They say it's a secret opportunity or a hot tip, and we'll lose out on a great deal if we do. Of course, this helps the crooks go undetected.

  6. They play on our desire to contribute to a worthwhile cause.

  7. We're embarrassed. When we do fall for fraud, we don't like to admit it, or reveal that we lost  money. The CAFC reports that they believe that less than 5% of victims report fraud, allowing fraudsters to scam others. Don’t be embarrassed, as anyone can fall for a scam and reporting this to SCU or directly to the CAFC helps protect others from falling victim to fraud. Read more about reporting fraud in our help centre.

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