Frauds and Scams in Canada

Frauds and scams are on the rise.

In the past decade, technology has completely transformed the criminal landscape, making fraud easier to commit, more widespread, and more sophisticated than ever before. In 2022, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received fraud and cybercrime reports totalling a staggering $530 million in victim losses. Nearly a 40% increase from the unprecedented $380 million in losses in 2021.

Unfortunately, the increase in financial loss isn’t tied to an increase in reporting—the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that only 5 to 10% of people report fraud. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Competition Bureau are once again joining forces this March to lead the 19th edition of Fraud Prevention Month.

The top three most reported types of fraud this past year were phishing, extortion and personal information scams, all frauds designed to get you to pay or give away sensitive information like your Social Insurance Number, passwords or banking details.

Due to the overlapping nature of fraud and cybercrime, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre works closely with the RCMP’s National Cybercrime Coordination Centre. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and National Cybercrime Coordination Centre are currently
working together to develop a new national cybercrime and fraud reporting system. The System is in BETA operation and, once fully operational in 2023-2024, it will improve the public reporting of cybercrime and fraud incidents for operational and user experience purposes.

Scams vary in nature, but deception by email, text and phone call is very common. Scams in person may also occur.

Identity theft

Identity theft occurs when a con artist steals personal information from someone so they can pretend to be that person and then do things like apply for a credit card, take out a loan or mortgage, get a cell phone or withdraw bank funds. The con artist will try to get information such as a bank card number and personal identity number (PIN), credit card number, health card number, driver’s license and Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Many scams and frauds attempt to imitate government services in order to gain access to your personal and financial information.  You may receive false messages from Service Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada, or Canada Border Services Agency, Canada Post.

If your wallet is lost or stolen, or mail you are expecting goes missing, you should report it right away to your bank or credit union.

Credit/debit card fraud

Credit card and debit card fraud occurs when a con artist uses your card, or a copy, to make purchases or withdraw money from your account. Keeping your card in sight, memorizing your PIN, and shielding your hand when you enter your PIN are ways you can reduce the risk of your credit card or debit card information being stolen and misused.

Digital scams (websites, email or text)

There are many digital scams and new ones appear all the time. Some appear to be asking for your help; some say there is a problem with your bank account or tax return. If you are not sure about an e-mail or text, stop and verify.  Do not open attachments or click on links, and do not provide personal or financial information.  You can check that any telephone number provided is the same as others found online, or check to see if there are scam reported that sound similar to what you are experiencing via CAFC.

Phone and door-to-door scams

Phone and door-to-door scams are also very common. Someone will call or come to your door pretending to be a representative of a charity, an employee of a credit card company, or even a distant relative. You might be offered a free prize or trip. If you aren’t completely sure who you are dealing with, do not give the person any money or information.

Sometimes people call or come to your door using high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy something you don’t want or need, or to talk you into getting work done on your house and then overcharging you or doing a bad job. While this is not always illegal, it is wrong and should be reported.

There is a very wide array of scams currently reported in Canada.  You can see a lengthy list here.

If you or someone you know is a victim of a fraud, contact your local police service to report the crime and also report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or toll-free at 1-888-495-8501. If a financial loss did not occur, still report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. If you have information about deceptive marketing practices, report it to the Competition Bureau. Your reports are essential to identify linkages, catch criminals, and prevent further victimization.

What to do if you’re a victim of fraud

  1. Collect your thoughts
  2. Contact your financial institutions
  3. Contact the police
  4. Report the incident
  5. Protect yourself from future fraud

Collect your thoughts

Stay calm. Gather all information about the fraud, including:

  • documents
  • receipts
  • copies of emails and/or text messages

Contact your financial institutions

Report the incident to the financial institution that transferred the money.

If you’re a victim of identity fraud:

  • place flags on all of your accounts
  • change all of your passwords
  • report the fraud to both credit bureaus (Equifax and TransUnion)

Contact the police

Report the incident to your local police and get a file number for future reference. If you find suspicious activity on your credit report, update your file with the police.

Report the incident

Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 1-888-495-8501 or through the Fraud Reporting System.

Depending on the type of fraud, or how it occurred, you’ll also want to report it to other organizations.

Fraud that took place online through a website

Report the incident directly to the administrators of the website. You can do so through a link such as “Report Abuse” or “Report an Ad”.

Redirected mail

If you suspect that someone had your mail re-directed, contact Canada Post.

You should also notify your service provider (telephone, cell phone, electricity, water, gas, etc.) of the identity fraud.

Lost, stolen, or misused immigration documents

Please contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada if:

  • your immigration documents have been lost or stolen
  • you suspect someone is fraudulently using them

Lost or stolen passport

If your passport is lost or stolen, report the incident to Passport Canada and to your local police.

If you are outside of Canada, you must report the loss or theft to the nearest Canadian government office abroad.

Stolen Social Insurance Number

Learn what to do if you suspect someone is using your Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Lost or stolen provincial or territorial identity documents

These documents include:

  • your birth certificate
  • your driver’s license
  • your health card
  • other documents issued by a province or territory

Please contact the province or territory that issued the document if:

  • the document has been lost or stolen
  • you believe someone is fraudulently using this information

You can find contact information on provincial and territorial government websites.

Protect yourself from future fraud

Scammers often target victims of fraud a second or third time with the promise of recovering money. Always do your due diligence and never send recovery money.

Share any updates with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, your financial institutions and police.

Tell family, friends, neighbours and co-workers about your experience. You may prevent someone else from becoming a victim.