How often do you get text messages, emails or calls with an urgent or panic-inducing call-to-action? Many of us encounter scam-related communications regularly – communications, manufactured by fraudsters, to lure us into sending money, gift cards or our personal information.
What's more, fraud appears to be on the rise in Canada. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received more than 90,000 fraud reports in 2022, with $530 million in reported losses – a nearly 30% increase in reported losses since 2021. Even worse, the CAFC estimates that only 5-10% of victims file a fraud report with the CAFC, which means the problem is likely much, much worse.
According to a new survey conducted on behalf of TD in time for Fraud Prevention Month, half of all Canadian respondents reported feeling vulnerable to being a target of fraud. Among those who feel vulnerable, most (42%) said they feel 'moderately vulnerable.'
But what types of frauds and scams did those surveyed say are the most concerning?
Identity theft ranked first with 52% of Canadian respondents reporting it was their top fraud-related worry.
However, title fraud – a scam that involves fraudsters selling your house behind your back, without your knowledge or consent – was a concern to nearly one in four (23%) of respondents.
With an increase in media stories about title fraud in Canada, it's unsurprising that this pernicious scam is on the minds of many survey respondents.
What is title fraud?
Title fraud usually begins with identity theft, explains the Government of Canada. Once a fraudster has your personal information, they can gain access to the information concerning the title on your home – i.e. who is the legal owner of your property – and then use that information to either resell or remortgage your home, without your knowledge or consent.
In several of the recent news reports about title fraud in the Greater Toronto Area, victims were often out of the country for long periods of time while their homes sat vacant.
How to help protect yourself from identity theft
Since identity theft is often the precursor to title fraud, it's important to know how to help protect yourself. There are several steps you can take to help safeguard your personal information. Here are some best practices to adopt so that they become habits, including:
- Exercise caution when you receive unsolicited requests for personal or financial information. Calls claiming to be from government agencies and financial institutions requesting confidential information, asking for your participation in an investigation, or asking you to lie to friends, family or others, are highly suspicious and most likely fraudulent. When in doubt, hang-up and call the number on the back of your debit/credit card to report the incident. Be sure not to open links from email addresses and text message phone numbers you do not recognize. For more information about the kinds of things your bank would never ask from you, please check out this story from TD Stories.
- Be careful about what you post online. Do not share sensitive personal information, such as information about your finances or where you live. And if you are going on vacation, think twice before posting that you're heading out of town as that could give a fraudster an opportunity to cause you harm.
- Guard your PINs, passwords and one-time passcodes. The only person who should know these details are you – not even your family members should know this information. Don't give out personal information, whether in person, over the phone, or online. Use unique passwords that don't include personal information. Never provide your SIN (Social Insurance Number) to anyone unless it is legally required to do so for tax reporting purposes.
- Check your statements, online accounts and banking apps regularly. Money management apps, like the TD MySpend app, can be helpful tools by providing notifications of spending transactions in real-time, and may also help to bring potentially fraudulent transactions to your attention.
- Store documents securely and shred them before they hit the trash. Also be sure to get your mail regularly to avoid mail theft.
"The safety and security of our customers' information and accounts is a top priority for us," said Sophia Leung, Senior Vice President of Protect Platform.
"We take this kind of activity very seriously and use many security controls to help protect customer accounts and our systems. We all have a role to play in protecting personal information – banks, businesses, customers. There is no better time than now to become better informed and aware of the actions you can take to protect yourself."
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, the Canada Revenue Agency recommends that you should contact and report the incident to:
- Your financial institution
- Your local police service
- The CRA
- The two credit reporting agencies (Equifax or TransUnion) to put a fraud alert on your account.
You can also report the fraud to the CAFC.
How to help protect yourself from title fraud
Many of the same precautions apply here, too. Start by reviewing the recommendations from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) – an agency of the Government of Canada — to help protect yourself against title or real estate fraud. This also includes speaking with a legal professional before giving another person or entity the right to manage your assets and also to discuss whether you should consider obtaining title insurance for your home.
For those who fear they might be victims of title fraud, or other types of real estate fraud, the FCAC recommends writing down as many details as you can about the fraud: when you noticed it, who you spoke to and when, so that you can relay that information to the authorities.
You should also contact:
- Your financial institution and institutions
- Your mortgage lender
- The local police
- Your provincial or territorial land registry office
- Equifax and Transunion to put a fraud alert on your account
You can also report the fraud to the CAFC.
About the TD Fraud Survey
TD Bank Group commissioned Maru/Blue Public Opinion to conduct a national online survey of 1,521 Canadians aged 18 years and older. Responses were collected between February 3 and 4, 2023.