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4 common payment scams to watch out for

June 01, 2021

Common Sense


A woman looks, skeptically, at her mobile phone.Note: This article contains content and images originally published by Interac. Republished with permission, June 2021.

Picture this: You check your email and see a message from a strange account. The subject line offers you five chances to become a millionaire and urges you to enter right away. Do you open the email?

Obviously not, given how transparently fraudulent it appears. But it’s getting more difficult to spot scams like these as fraudsters get better at impersonating legitimate institutions. In fact, a recent public survey conducted by Interac found that while seven in ten Canadians believed they could confidently spot phishing scams, the majority of respondents didn’t know the safest option for dealing with them.

So how can you keep yourself safe from digital fraud? Identifying threats is the first step, and these examples will acquaint you with the 4 common tricks that scammers use.

1. Tax return scams

If you receive an email from your tax agency that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often pretend to represent these institutions, using fraudulent tax returns to bait their victims into clicking suspicious links or surrendering their social insurance numbers. This can result in identity theft, keystroke logging, and other breaches of personal information.

Don’t respond to these emails or click on any links. Instead, contact the relevant tax agency directly to confirm the email’s veracity or log in directly from the company’s public website - do not use the link they provide. Following these steps will likely prevent you from serious financial harm.

New message: Dear Tax Payer, You are entitled to your tax return now. The tax refund amount is $745.56. You are required to login to our secure Epass site with your Social Insurance Number and complete the required information in order for your refund to be processed. To access the form for your tax refund, click here.

2. Streaming service fraud

On-demand video has become the new normal for many Canadians. Unfortunately, many fraudsters have also taken note, and impersonating streaming services has become a common way to trick unsuspecting consumers. Often, criminals will send emails requesting that victims update their billing information. As with tax return schemes, the goal is to get targets to click a link and enter sensitive information.

To verify whether these emails are fraudulent, check the URL listed in the email. If it begins with the acronym “https,” then the information transmitted to the site is secured by encryption, indicating that the message is legitimate. You can also contact the service’s customer support services directly to confirm that the email is accurate.

New message: We were unable to validate your billing information for the next billing cycle of your subscription. Please update your information below to keep your membership active. We’re here to help if you need it. Visit the Help Center for more information or contact us. Thanks, The Couch Potato Streaming Team

3. Fake money transfers

Not every scam is as impersonal as streaming service fraud or tax return grifts. Hackers will often impersonate friends and loved ones to steal money or personal information. Sometimes, they’ll assume these identities to send fake money transfers, tricking unsuspecting Canadians into handing over answers to security questions and other sensitive information.

When you receive a money transfer, always read the message carefully. Generally, fraudulent emails will ask you to reply with a security answer. If you receive an unexpected transfer, contact the sender to verify that it’s legitimate. A quick text message or phone call can save you from serious financial peril.

Text message: IMPORTANT MESSAGE Please contact the Aura Bank at 1-877-566-8921 for important information pertaining to your bank account.

4. Financial institution scams

At this point, you’re probably wary of suspicious emails. But scammers are just as likely to defraud consumers through phone calls and text messages as they are to use spam messages. They’ll often imitate bank representatives to trick victims into submitting their banking information to a compromised web page.

If you receive a dubious text or phone call from your financial institution, contact your bank immediately. Don’t address or respond to the message until you’ve confirmed its legitimacy with your bank. As always, checking in with the supposed senders of these messages is the fastest way to determine their credibility.

While anyone can fall victim to payment scams, following these tips will help keep you safe from malicious activity. And if you do encounter fraud, be sure to report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Learn more about preventing fraud

9 fraud prevention tips from Interac
How to prevent e-Transfer fraud and interception
How to spot and avoid phishing scams
How to create a strong password