While many overseas scam boiler rooms and call centres closed down at the beginning the pandemic, they came back with a vengeance as COVID-19 dragged on in 2021.
Whether it was because Canadians spent more time online or on social media, many were more susceptible to investment fraud, romance scams and other criminal activity.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre said that fraudsters have become more sophisticated and detailed and unfortunately many Canadians are losing millions of dollars to criminals.
Sue Labine, Call Centre Supervisor for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, said the top scam in Canada from January 2021 to September of this year is the investment scam, with Canadians losing $70.2 million.
Scammers may create fake accounts and advise people to invest in cryptocurrencies, and while the websites may look very real to the victim they are fraudulent with none of their money ever really invested.
“It is very devastating unfortunately for these people. Quite often they do need further counseling and how to deal with that type of loss,” said Labine.
“We also advise people to communicate with their bank to see if there is any way of being refunded some of that money seeing as they are a victim of fraud,” Labine added.
In the number two spot for scams in 2021 is the romance scam, where criminals use social media and dating sites to have virtual relationships with people and then eventually ask them for money.
Canadians lost more than $42.2 million to romance scams so far this year.
“The criminals create fake profiles where they use stolen photos to make the victim believe it is actually them. It could take years for the relationship to develop or sometimes they’ll move quite quickly,” said Labine.
The number three scam is the spearfishing scam, where criminals send texts or e-mails pretending to be with the government, businesses or someone you know trying to access your accounts. Canadians lost $38 million to this scam in 2021.
“It involves scammers pretending to be legitimate sources, and they’ll convince businesses or individuals to send them money,” Labine said.
In at number four is the merchandizing scam at $5.6 million in losses, where criminals may use classified ads or fake websites to sell tickets, puppies, vehicles or to rent out apartments or cottages.
Number five is the services scam at $4.8 million in losses, where scammers will pretend to offer a service such as phone plans, credit cards or insurance hoping to steal your personal information or get into your bank and credit card accounts.
The Anti-Fraud Centre said many financial losses are not reported because many people are embarrassed they’ve fallen victim to a scam.
Officials said reporting it can help them track criminal activity and also try to help others from falling victim to the same scams.