The Real Cost of Scams and Frauds

Published: March 27, 2023

In 2022, people across Canada lost over $531 million dollars to scams and fraud. These are people we know – we might be these people. And there’s no shame in that – fraudsters and scammers are actively trying to trick you and, unfortunately, they’re good at what they do. They carefully design their scams to play on people’s emotions and leverage fear, uncertainty, and pressure to get what they want. They pose as trustworthy people and institutions to gain your trust.

Who’s Most at Risk?

While fraud can, and does, happen to anyone, youth, seniors, and newcomers are particularly vulnerable.

At this point in time, many young people have grown up online and with easy access to technologies. This can give them a false sense of safety and security with these tools, leading them to have their guard down, to trust strangers online, and to share personal information without realizing its value. 

At the opposite end, many seniors have less experience and familiarity with online procedures and haven’t been exposed to strategies for protecting themselves online. Others might have conditions that impair decision making, may be isolated from others and unable to ask for second opinions, and vulnerable to those preying on faking a connection with the lonely. 

Newcomers have a different set of circumstances that make them prime targets for scammers. Being unsure of government protocols, the norms of institutions, and even the names of agencies and bureaus can make it hard for immigrants to identify the warning signs of certain scams. As an added difficulty, many newcomers face language barriers which can add to confusion about when something is coming from a trusted source (and even in identifying trusted sources over the fraudsters posing as them). 

Scammers and fraudsters look for and prey upon vulnerabilities. They pose as landlords, lovers, friends, family, companies, and even government officials to trick us. 

The Cost for Victims

When people have been scammed, there’s almost always a financial loss. The impacts of this can be catastrophic for the victims. People lose their life savings, retirement funds, and investments. Scams can leave people without the means to pay rent or buy groceries. 

But the money is only one side of the equation. It’s common for victims to struggle with trusting others after the crime or to feel like their privacy has been invaded. There’s a high emotional cost on top of the financial ones. Victims often have a sense of guilt or shame, with thoughts like “how could I have fallen for this?”

We want to reiterate: it is never a victims fault for being scammed. We don’t blame victims of mugging, home invasion, or other theft – and it doesn’t make sense to blame victims of fraud. While there are things we can (and should) to do try and protect ourselves, there are forms of information theft that go beyond our control, such as when companies’ databases are hacked and our payment information is stolen. At the end of the day: scammers and fraudsters are thieves. Odessa, a Support Worker in our Victim Services, wants you to know that “you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you’ve been the victim. Scammers specialize in their craft.”

What to do if You’ve Been the Victim of Scam or Fraud

Feelings of shame can make it hard to take steps to report the crime, but our staff in both Financial Empowerment and Victim Services encourage you to do so. Odessa emphasizes, “The legal steps are really important, so telling the police and getting a file number if your name has been compromised. You might need that file number for the bank and/or credit card company. You should also let the credit bureaus know.”

If you’ve been the victim of scam or fraud, our experts recommend that you:

  • Report it to the legal authorities. You might not always get your money back, but it can help the effort to catch scammers.
  • Contact your financial institutions to alert them and cancel any credit or bank cards if you think your identity has been stolen.
  • Get in touch with Financial Empowerment at FGSV. Our Coaches can walk you through what steps to take.
  • Cancel and re-issue relevant ID
  • Consider monitoring your credit score. This might cost money and won’t be an option for everyone. 
  • Report the crime through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and file a complaint with Competition Bureau Canada