What to Do If You’re a Victim of Fraud
Unfortunately, if you are the victim of financial fraud, you may also be dealing with identity theft and financial losses. It can take over a year to recover from this type of crime. It is up to you to put your financial life back in order.
Reporting fraud is critical
Falling victim to a scam, or fraud scheme does not feel good and it may be hard to believe it happened to you. But financial fraud is more common than you think.
By reporting it, you provide the proper authorities with the information they need to stop fraudsters and help prevent others from becoming victims. The information you provide is important!
Take the following steps if you suspect that you may be or have been a target of fraud.
1. Don’t pay any more money
May sound obvious, but be on the lookout for recovery frauds. Scammers often target victims of fraud a second or even third time with the promise of recovering money. The fraudsters of these advance-fee frauds may pose as government officials, attorneys, or recovery companies. Always do your due diligence and never send recovery money.
2. Collect your thoughts
While the events are fresh in your mind, create a timeline and collect documents and information that could help to report the fraud, such as:
- Names, titles, or positions used by the fraudsters.
- Social media profiles, group posts, chats, or other online interactions.
- Website addresses and screen shots.
- Emails and email addresses.
- Phone numbers you used to contact them.
- Account information, statements, trade confirmations, disclosures, and sales materials.
- If credit cards were used, include the receipts or statements.
- Records of other forms of payment including cancelled checks or receipts for wire transfers, money orders, or prepaid cards.
3. Report the fraud
To report fraud, contact:
- your local police and file a report.
- your bank, financial institution or CIRO member.
- for financial and investment scams to your local securities regulator, the Canadian Securities Administrators or CIRO.
- your credit card company.
- the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
- the two national credit bureaus, to place a fraud alert on your credit report file:
- Equifax (1-800-871-3250)
- TransUnion (1-800-663-9980)
4. Protect your identity and accounts
If you gave personal information to the fraudsters, take steps to block access to your accounts and protect against identity theft.
- Bank Accounts: If you gave any account information, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. You may need to place flags on all of your accounts or open new ones.
- Credit Cards: If you used credit card information in the fraudulent transaction, contact your card issuers to make a fraud report.
- Social Security Number: Contact Service Canada if your SIN card is lost or if you suspect your SIN is being wrongly used. Be on guard for scams that claim your SIN is linked to back taxes or other debts. Independently verify claims from creditors before paying any money.
- Log-ins and Passwords: If you registered for access to a fraudster’s website using usernames or passwords that you use elsewhere, be sure to update accounts with new log-ins as soon as possible.
- It is important to note that customers can also complain directly to CIRO at any time regarding CIRO-regulated investment dealers or mutual fund dealers.
5. Protect yourself from future fraud
Most often, routine activities can lead people into becoming targets, and returning to those activities could start the process over again. These routine activities could include being active in investor social media groups or chat rooms, commenting on videos, signing up for special offers, free giveaways, or investor newsletters.
WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW
Information is important. But the small steps you can take now may lead to big changes.
- File a claim with your financial institution, with your local police and the Canadian Anti- Fraud Centre.
- Place flags on your accounts and credit files.
- Check your statements and credit report.
NEXT FEW MONTHS
- Stay alert! Regularly check all of your statements and credit reports.
- Open mail to ensure you aren’t getting bills, invoices, or collection notices that don’t belong to you.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help you avoid fraud again.
- Check the registration of any adviser or firm with the CSA’s National Registration Search. Where the advisor or firm’s registration shows as being with an investment dealer, use CIRO’s AdvisorReport to check a potential advisor or firm’s registration. Where the firm’s registration shows as being a mutual fund dealer, check the Dealers We Regulate before doing business with them. While registration alone cannot protect you from fraud, most frauds involve unregistered individuals, entities, or products.
- Stay current and educate yourself on the latest frauds and schemes.
- Get a second opinion from someone you trust before making an investment.
- Delete -don’t open- unsolicited email. They can carry harmful viruses that can infect your computer.
- Verify business addresses by doing an online map search and looking at the location.
- Check email addresses carefully to avoid phishing attacks. Double check that the URL is identical or use sources like Dealers We Regulate page to reach a firm’s web address.
- Tell family, friends, neighbours and co-workers. You may save someone else from becoming a victim.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited sales calls or email.
- Don’t give credit card, payment information, or personal information over the phone, in an email, or to a website that is sent as a link in an email. Instead, end the call or close the email, and look up the customer service contact information on your own.
- Don’t fund trades or investments by wiring money, sending prepaid credit or gift cards, using digital assets such as Bitcoin, or making other unusual forms of payment.
- Don’t communicate using encrypted messaging apps. These apps provide global access and hide the true location of the person on the other end. You could easily be dealing with an offshore fraudster posing as a person in Canada.
- Don’t engage with people promoting investments or trading schemes on social media.
- Don’t trade or invest with unregistered firms or individuals that operate outside of Canada.
- Don’t engage with people you are introduced to through third parties or organizations. Affinity fraud targets people through social groups and use those connections to build credibility. Places of worship, professional organizations, service organizations, and others are common targets for affinity fraudsters.