Financial scams and fraud come in many different forms. Sometimes they arrive in the form of a text message, email, or phone call, and often these forms for fraudulent communications are designed to look like they are coming from your bank.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, a common type of financial fraud in Canada involves fraudsters posing as bank employees in order to trick their victims into disclosing their banking or personal information.
Countless Canadians have seen these messages. Sometimes they're as simple as a fraudulent text message or email that says the potential victim's bank account has been frozen, with a link to a fake website where the user is encouraged to enter personal information to "unlock" their account. Sometimes these scams involve the fraudster phoning a potential victim and pretending to be a bank employee who needs their help as part of a fraud investigation.
Ultimately, the goal of many of these scams is to either steal the victim's personal or banking information in order to gain access to their accounts, or to get the victim to wire money or purchase gift cards and send the funds to the fraudster.
While your bank does require you to disclose certain personal information in order to confirm your identity and provide you with services, the reality is there are strict rules governing what the bank can ask you to disclose, and how they're allowed to do it.
Many of these scams are designed to get you to respond to questions or requests that a bank would never make.
In fact, one of the best ways to protect yourself from these kinds of scams is to learn what your bank would never ask you to do.
Your bank would never call you to ask for personal information
When you call your bank to ask a question or to perform banking transactions, the bank employee on the other end of the phone may ask you some personal details to confirm your identity. This is because the employee needs to verify you are who you say you are before proceeding with any actions related to your accounts.
However, a bank would never call you and then ask you to provide personal information – because this is a common tactic used by fraudsters to gain information. So, if someone calls you claiming to be from your bank and asks you to provide personal or account information, hang up and call your bank at the number on the back of your debit card, preferably from a different phone line just to be safe. Make sure not to call back any number provided to you by the person who called.
Your bank would never ask you to keep a secret or be dishonest
Some scams involve the fraudster talking the victim into sending wire transfers or gift cards. In an effort to get access to a victim's money with as little intervention as possible, fraudsters will sometimes instruct the victim not to tell branch staff why they are withdrawing or wiring the money. Fraudsters will sometimes even provide the victim with a phony cover story to tell the branch employee – such as that the money is for a family member overseas. One common type of fraud where the fraudster instructs the victim to keep a secret is the so-called Grandparent scam.
Remember that it's important to always be honest with branch staff as they are the first line of defense in helping to protect your money.
Your bank would never threaten to cancel your services and ask to remote into your device
Many scams involving fraudulent text messages or emails will falsely say that your account is locked, or threaten to close your account unless you click on a link and provide account details. Your bank would never threaten to cancel your services.
Your bank would never try to rush you into doing something
If you get a message purporting to be from your bank that is prompting you to take immediate action, delete it immediately. Anytime you receive a note that is trying to get you to click on a link or perform an action in a specified period of time, or else your money will be lost or your account frozen, that's a red flag that the message is fraudulent.
Your bank would never ask you to help with an investigation
One of the more common scams is known as the "Bank Investigator Scam" which typically involves the victim receiving a phone call from a fraudster posing as an employee of the fraud department at a bank.
In the case of this scam, the fraudster often provides a fraudulent name and 'employee number' and tells the victim either that their accounts have been compromised or that the bank is investigating a series of fraud cases that have been committed by staff at the individual’s branch. The scammer goes on to ask the victim to assist with a joint law enforcement investigation into the compromise, suggesting that it is vital this information is kept confidential.
In some cases, to help encourage participation, the fraudster offers compensation. They will then convince the victim to disclose their banking information under the guise of helping with the investigation. The fraudster will then use this information to remotely gain access to the victim's computer and ultimately their bank accounts. You may even see money deposited into your account; however, this is often the fraudster moving funds from your other products (e.g. line of credit or credit card). Neither your financial institution nor law enforcement organizations will ask citizens to help with a fraud investigation, nor would they try to offer financial compensation for doing so.
Your bank would never ask you to purchase gift cards
In a number of scams, the fraudster will pose as a friend or family member of the victim – sometimes through a hacked or compromised email account – and ask the victim to purchase gift cards on their behalf to help them out of a made-up situation. In some cases, the fraudster will deposit money into the victim's account – either through fraudulent cheques, or by using cash advances from the victim's own credits cards or lines of credit. The fraudster will then instruct the victim to purchase gift cards using the money and to share the card numbers with the fraudster once the cards are activated.
If you receive a call or email instructing you to purchase gift cards of any kind, this is a scam. Unfortunately, because gift cards are used like cash, once they are purchased, it is unlikely that you will be able to get your money back.
Your bank would never ask you to transfer money as part of an investigation
In a number of scams, the goal of the fraudster is to get the victim to wire or Interac e-Transfer money. Remember that your financial institution will never ask you to withdraw money or perform any financial transaction to help in a fraud or internal investigation of any kind. Unfortunately, once money is sent, there is a limited amount of time in which the wire or Interac e-Transfer can be cancelled, and you may not be able to get it back.
Your bank would never request access to your computer
Under no circumstances would your bank ask you for remote access to your device. If you receive a call from someone who says they are from your bank and they need you to download software onto your computer for any reason, hang up the phone and contact your bank immediately – using a phone number you know is legitimate (such as the one on the back of your debit or credit card).
How to avoid falling victim to one of these scams
- Be aware: Don't trust any unsolicited calls and verify the source of anyone who claims to be calling from your bank. If you receive a call from someone who says they're from your bank, take down their name and hang up. Using a different phone line, call the bank using an established and verified number, such as the number on the back of your debit card.
- Don't assume: Though your call display might say the call is coming from your bank, don’t assume the caller is legitimate. Scammers often use call spoofing technology so that your call display shows the name of a company or financial institution to make you believe their request is authentic.
- Protect your personal information: To verify your identity, your bank will ask basic questions to ensure they are speaking to the correct person. However, they will never ask you to disclose your passwords or your PIN number on the phone. If you feel uncomfortable with the call or feel like you are being asked questions that feel too personal, hang up.
How can you protect yourself from a scam?
- Understand your responsibilities as an account or card holder. This information is provided by your bank and outlines your commitments.
- Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Look in the security settings of your email provider, social media platforms, banking apps etc. and enable two-factor authentication wherever its available. This offers a higher level of security for your online profiles, but it's rarely the default set by providers. For more information on how TD uses Two Factor Authentication to protect your online and mobile banking, click here.
- Get educated: The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre can help you learn more about common fraud scams so you can avoid them.
- Stay informed: By using free services like TD Fraud Alerts, which TD customers are automatically enrolled in if we have your current mobile phone number on file, you'll receive instant text messages notifying you if we detect suspicious activity on your TD Credit Cards or TD Access Cards.
If you've been the victim of a scam:
Report it: If you or a family member has fallen victim to a scam, report it to your local police, as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Talk about it: If you've fallen victim to a scam, share your story. The more people who know about these scams, the harder it may be for fraudsters to take advantage.