Canada | Fraud

70 per cent of Canadians concerned about fraud: study

While awareness is on the rise, gaps exist in knowledge of cellphone, lottery and mortgage schemes, CPA Canada survey finds

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Person holding a credit card while using a laptopNineteen per cent of survey respondents reported that they have experienced credit card fraud (Shutterstock/Kite_rin)

Canadians are increasingly aware of fraud and are taking steps to protect themselves. That’s according to a CPA Canada’s 2019 Annual Fraud Study, which found that 70 per cent of Canadians are more concerned about fraud today than they were five years ago.

Respondents are also familiar with identity theft and fraud: 86 per cent knew about identity theft and credit card fraud, 79 per cent knew about email fraud and 73 were aware of telemarketing fraud.

“The good news I’m seeing here is awareness and that it’s as high as it is,” says Satyamoorthy Kabilan, vice president of policy at Ottawa’s Public Policy Forum and an expert on fraud.

However, there were some awareness gaps. For example, fewer Canadians know about cellphone, lottery and mortgage fraud, according to the survey. 

CANADIANS STAYING VIGILANT

Still, the fact that more people are aware of fraud means more Canadians are protecting themselves. CPA Canada found that 65 per cent of respondents are taking measures to keep themselves safe, including 86 per cent saying they look over their credit card statements monthly and 74 per cent saying they only provide personal information to secure websites.   

With 19 per cent reporting that they have experienced credit card fraud and others falling victims to different kinds of fraud, people must remain vigilant, says Kabilan.

“It’s never-ending and it’s always evolving,” he says, noting that typical email scams used to look fake but they’re now much more sophisticated. “Today, the email scams I’m getting are so close to the real company’s look and feel.”

Doretta Thompson, CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader, is also pleased to see that more people are aware of fraud and agrees that Canadians need to stay on top of it.

“Taking action to thwart fraudsters is to be applauded,” she says. “Even as technology advances to make our lives easier with things like thumbprint, voice and facial recognition, we cannot afford to let our guard down. If there is one thing we can be sure of, it’s that fraudsters will continue to develop new ways to challenge security. Each of us must continue to be personally diligent because the threat of fraud is constant and evolving.”

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

There is one area where Canadians can improve: passwords. The survey found that 61 per cent of people memorize their passwords, which suggests to Kabilan that they’re re-using passwords. That puts people at risk for getting hacked on multiple websites. 

Meanwhile, 24 per cent write passwords down on a piece of paper, which, Kabilan says, is also a security risk as people usually keep these papers near their devices. He’d like to see more people using password managers and two-factor authentication, which requires you to input a password and something else, usually a number sent by text message.

Survey respondents also seem relaxed around using public Wi-Fi, with 57 per cent saying they’re using it without a VPN as extra security. 

“Free Wi-Fi isn’t always really free,” says Kabilan, adding that public wireless networks can be easily hacked. 

While he admits that taking extra security steps can make digital life less convenient, it’s better than spending a few days trying to get credit card charges reversed. 

“It’s a trade-off between security and efficiency,” Kabilan says, adding that extra protection is becoming increasingly important. “The people who commit fraud evolve very quickly, and they adapt. If they find you are cracking down on things, they’ll find a new twist on it.”

BE SMART ABOUT FRAUD 

Read CPA Canada’s 2019 Fraud Study for further insight on the level of awareness Canadians have about fraud. And to learn more about how to protect yourself, download the Protecting You and Your Money: A Guide to Avoiding Identity Theft and Fraud.

The CPA Canada 2019 Annual Fraud Study was conducted by Nielsen via an online questionnaire, from January 18 to 28, 2019 with 2,009 randomly selected Canadian adults, who are members of their online panel.