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Protect yourself when scammers come calling

  • 3.5 min read

Experts say Canadians, including farmers, need to have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to responding to requests for personal information in phone calls, emails and text messages.

Follow up on suspicious requests

Check with the person you deal with most frequently at the institution, says Jennifer Hogan, a senior security analyst within the IT division of FCC. If the request is fraudulent, that alerts the organization to the activity, she says.

Many companies use multiple defensive measures to protect from email scams, including spam filters, antivirus and anti-malware scanners.

"This way, if one control fails, there are others to help detect and delay the attack," Hogan says.

She says even with these measures, phishing emails can still get through – which is why individuals have a critical role to play in protecting information.

Watch for the warning signs

Hogan says there are several signs Canadian farmers can keep an eye and ear out for if they receive a call demanding funds.

"Is the caller talking quickly? Are they trying to get the person on the other end confused? Are they asking for personal information? Financial information?" she says.

The same goes for emails. Hogan says there are questions people should ask:

  • Does the email make sense? 
  • Is the request within the character of the sender? 
  • Is this how you normally communicate with this sender?
  • Do you feel uncomfortable or pressured by the email?
  • Is this an unexpected email with a link or attachment?
  • Is there bad grammar?
  • Is there a request in the email asking for personal, financial or login credentials or information?

It’s always better to be cautious with requests for personal or confidential information.

If a request for personal information is received, the request should be checked out before any information is shared, experts say.

Shawna-Kay Thomas of the Better Business Bureau agrees and says it’s always better to be cautious with requests for personal or confidential information.

"If you receive a call asking for that kind of information, you may want to hang up the phone and call back a legitimate number you have for that particular government agency and then follow-up with the request that is being made of you," Thomas says.

Stay informed and tell others

Jeff Thomson is a senior RCMP intelligence officer currently managing the fraud prevention and intake unit at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

He says scams are tracked, and a list is available at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, or by calling their toll-free line 1-888-495–8501, where they have several resources.

“We try to give you some key indicators as to what to watch for,” Thomson says of the website content.

Thomson says everyone gains when information about phone scams and how to avoid them is shared with family and friends.

"In doing so, you hear what is going on, on the ground,” Thomson says. “They may have heard something that you did not hear about, and in hearing your story, they're able to prevent you from falling for those scandals."

Thomson says that when a suspicious phone call is received, Canadians may want to consider using an initiative that started in the United Kingdom to combat schemes, called Take 5, Tell 2.

"Any types of funny calls you get - whether it is someone calling and threatening you or scaring you into performing something or asking for personal information - take a step back, don't react, and then talk to other people."

He says taking a step back and reflecting for five minutes or so, then speaking about the experience with two friends or family members, helps spread the word.

Suspicious phone calls, email or text messages should be reported to the local RCMP detachment.

Bottom line

Schemes requesting confidential personal or banking information are a regular occurrence for many Canadians, whether by phone call, email or text message. Experts offer several tips for gaining knowledge and verifying the authenticity of the requests, such as confirming the source of the call with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or calling the organization directly. Experts also recommend sharing stories of fraudster requests with family and friends to raise awareness.