The Peel Regional Police is warning residents of scammers who are posing as food delivery drivers to steal banking information from point of sale transactions. The police are unable to confirm which delivery service is affected, but cautioned against any strangers claiming to be with a delivery service. Such scammers have been asking people to make a debit transaction, claiming not to accept cash payments. The transaction appears to be a typical debit transaction, but compromises the accounts of the card owner.
Such fraudulent behaviour is not a first for the region. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center (CAFC) reported 83,697 cases of fraud in 2022 as of November 30, 2022. Canadians lost a total of $490 million to scammers in that same timeframe. This is a marked increase in comparison to 2021, where financial loss only totaled to $383 million.
In particular, online fraud is a growing issue. According to Chris Lynam, the director general of the National Cybercrime Co-ordination Unit, in 2021, over 70 per cent of fraud happened over the internet. These often occur as cases of phishing, where victims receive fraudulent emails that, when interacted with, can gather information about victims through downloaded viruses.
The pandemic led to a sharp increase in fraud, several directly related to the Covid-19 virus, since fraudulent criminals often exploit public confusion and panic. The Government of Canada reported scams by third parties posing as government programs, such as phishing emails posing as the ArriveCAN app—an app created during the pandemic for travelers to detail their entry into the country. Many scams also targeted the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Canada Emergency Student Benefit. The government states they will never reach out to Canadian citizens and residents through email or text about these benefits and that both programs are no longer running.
Vaccines have also been a target for scams, with third parties selling unauthorized or phony Covid-19 vaccines online and at unauthorized locations. Only local public health authorities, working with the Canadian government and clinics, are approved to safely provide vaccines. These vaccine scams not only pose a threat to financial security, but also to public health.
The CAFC suggests several precautions for individuals against fraud. For areas of cyber-security, it is important for users to be aware of fraudulent pop-up messages and phishing attacks. Pop-ups and emails often take the form of lottery winnings, video game advertisements, or pornographic websites. When faced with these messages, it is strongly advised to not click on anything or call any provided phone number, and to instead exit the tab or window.
Anti-virus software can also help protect against online scams, but it is best to have software updated by bringing devices to a local technician—giving others remote access to a device can also compromise one’s cyber-safety. In the same vein, it is important to refrain from sharing explicit photographs—fraudulent actors may approach social media users asking for such photos. Lastly, social accounts can be protected with strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and chains of security questions.
For both in-person and online scams, the CAFC reaffirms the importance of saying “no.” Scammers often give urgent, high-pressure messages, making victims feel obligated to act immediately. This tactic stops victims from taking the time to think about the information they are sharing. The CAFC recommends not to give out any personal information (including full name, address, date of birth, social insurance number, and credit card information) to unsolicited callers.
Associate News Editor (Volume 49) — Emily is a third-year at UTM, studying Environmental Science and Political Science. Her academic career is best illustrated by terminal indecisiveness between the humanities and sciences. As a passionate writer, she looks forward to igniting her own creativity for The Medium and hopes to learn from others and grow in her work. Aside from speed typing thousands words worth of analyses, essays, and articles, Emily enjoys spending her spare time running miles through the woods, assembling the perfect outfits, reading on public transit, and drinking copious amounts of coffee. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.