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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 2021?
In 2021, the CAFC reported more than 107,000 cases of fraud,  losses totaling $383 million, and more than 68,000 victims.
What are the most common types of fraud?
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), in 2021 the top 10 (losses in millions) were these common scams.

Investment fraud ($163.9M) 
Includes any solicitation for false or deceptive investment opportunities that promise higher than usual returns, leading investors to lose their money. This is especially true when the investment scam involves cryptocurrency as it’s difficult to trace and recover your funds or catch the perpetrators. Read more about investment and cryptocurrency scams, the high-pressure tactics, and techniques used.

Romance scams ($64.6M)
Scammers create fake profiles on social media or dating sites for the purpose of persuading someone to enter a virtual, online relationship, eventually asking for money for a variety of reasons, usually a family or medical emergency. Scammers are often unable to meet the victim in person, providing excuses such as being deployed overseas, or working on an oil rig. If someone you have met online is unwilling to meet you in person, this is a romance scam red flag. Learn more about romance and other scams that target individuals online.

Spear phishing ($54M)
A technique used by scammers pretending to be from a legitimate source to convince an individual or business to send them money. The target is provided a link to a site that looks legitimate but is not, and instead is filled with malware. The intention is often to steal information or data, or to gain access to the target’s computer. Learn more about phishing attacks and what to look for to avoid becoming a victim.

Extortion ($18M)
Whether through email, text, online, or snail mail, reports of extortion are on the rise. Often scammers threaten to release personal information, photos, videos, or warning of potential harm should you not respond. Often scammers impersonate law enforcement, accusing you of crimes for which for a fee, the charges can be dropped.

Merchandising scams (fake ads websites used to ‘sell’) ($12.3M)
For merchandising scams, fraudsters create fake online ads for classifies ads, website pop-ups, resale sites, and fake company websites to sell everything from vacation rentals and puppies to cars and concert tickets. Whether you are buying or selling, if the offer is too good to be true, it probably is. Learn more about consumer fraud.

Services scams ($11.6M)
Scams like these have been around for decades and have traditionally focused on home repairs and services, including air duct cleaning, furnace repairs, gutter cleaning, and such. However, in recent years there are increased reports of scams involving telecom services (or cell phones), tech support, and immigration services. Learn more about the diverse types and techniques of service scams here.

Job scams ($9.4M)
These types of scams target job seekers via email, text, or online by offering “easy” ways to earn money with positions such as: mystery shopper, data entry clerk, administrative assistant, and other titles. Often scammers send a cheque as a starting or signing bonus, or to purchase supplies and equipment for your new role, along with instructions to deposit it into your account and transfer a substantial portion of the money to a bank account they provide. They can also ask that you purchase gift cards. Of course, the cheque is fraudulent, and you now owe that money to the bank. 

Victim vendor (also known as overpayment scams) ($7.7M) 
You post an ad online selling goods for your business or for yourself. You are contacted by an interested buyer who claims to be from out of town. All is good until it’s time for the payment, and that is when the scam begins. It can include a fraudulent cheque or money transfer, sudden account problems, or often, an overpayment, where after the money is deposited, the purchaser request that you return the excess funds via Interac e-transfer®. You later learn later that the payment was fraudulent, and the money you returned is now gone. 

Loan and grants ($6.9M)
These includes scams that target businesses promising grants and loans that pretend to be from government, special grant programs, or banks with official sounding names. Scammers use websites that look like official sites offering businesses access to special funding. Loan and grant fraud increased as a result of the pandemic as businesses sought financial assistance. Learn more about business fraud and the repercussions here. 

Bank investigator ($4.6M)
You receive a phone call advising you that your financial institution (or online retailer or law enforcement) needs your help catching an employee who has been stealing or to help resolve suspicious transactions on your account. 
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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