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Celebrate Fraud Prevention Month and Protect Your Assets

Odd Cents - Banking and Finance

We are trudging along through March and I wanted to spare a minute to recognise the fact that this month is designated as Fraud Prevention Month. No matter where we are in life, fraud exists. There will always be some scammer who will try to get your assets by any means necessary. Both our personal life and business life are prone to fraud and we have to be aware of what we are facing.

In a recent bulletin in honour of Fraud Prevention Month, Scotiabank shared some helpful tips to sensitize its customers about fraud and scammers and what can be done to stay safe. They share some helpful tips about how to spot scams, how to implement solutions that fight back and general best practices that will strengthen security in your life.

How to Spot Common Scams

Back in the day, I used to receive lots of emails from scammers. The most frequent ones were the ones where they would send an email asking me to send money to claim multi-million-dollar fortunes. Then there were a couple that told me a friend was in trouble and I needed to send money to bail them out. Most recently, I have been receiving scams that tell me I need to pay subscriptions or I will be removed from registries and directories. They tried it.

Some of the common scams, which recur time and time again are:

  • Beneficiary change: The fraudster emails you pretending to be your supplier and asks you to wire a payment. They will often send you their contact details and tell you that their wiring instructions have changed.
  • CEO fraud: The scammer will send an urgent request which states that they need funds right away. They will then ask you to send money to an unfamiliar account as quickly as possible. They may even say that the new account is designed to receive funds quicker than the usual account.
  • System maintenance: The scammer may contact you pretending to be working on the bank’s website. They may ask for your login name, password, token value, and/ or security passwords so that they can fix the issues.

Fraud Red Flags

When it comes to money matters, scammers have upped their game. So, you need to be aware of the common fraud red flags. Scotiabank cautions that if you notice any of these warning signs, you may be dealing with a fraudster.

The flags are classified into two groups – “Something doesn’t look right” and “Something doesn’t sound right”. In both of these groups, you are the common denominator. This means that you have to be vigilant, remain calm, and take the right steps to avoid the scam.

Something doesn’t look right

In many cases, fraudsters try to make slight changes so that you may not recognise the differences.

  • Minor changes in the email address or the domain: Letters may be switched around or missing
  • Differences in the invoice, letterhead, fax or email template: Changes may differ significantly from previous templates
  • Poor grammar or spelling: This is a huge flag that you cannot ignore or miss
  • Unfamiliar supplier or vendor: Strange bills for familiar services from “new” vendors
  • Altered beneficiary and transaction information: The scammer will include their banking details so that you will send money to them

Something doesn’t sound right

Scammers will often say things that do not make any sense at all. They are hoping to rush you to act quickly before anyone realises the scam.

  • Strong sense of urgency: By acting quickly, they can get away with their fraud
  • Demand for secrecy: The less people that know about the situation, means that they have a greater chance of succeeding
  • Communication challenges: They may try to avoid calls, because you can easily recognise a familiar voice
    A desire to skip regular approval processes: Scammers want to avoid enhanced reviews and additional security checks

How to Stay Safe From Scammers

As part of its Fraud Prevention Month sensitisation campaign, Scotiabank outlines a smart list of actions that you can use to stay safe from scammers.

Before you act on any request received,

  1. Stop and think: Is this request unusual? How does it differ from previous requests?
  2. Call someone: If you believe that the request is unusual, call someone who can verify it
  3. Talk to someone: Get in contact with your bank or manager and let them know your concerns
  4. Get in touch with a known contact: If there are changes to the usual documents, ask for confirmed and signed changes in writing
  5. Do not share information: Banks will never ask for personal information such as passwords, birthdates or token values

Going forward, you should make it a priority to put procedures and policies in place:

  1. Use more than one approver: Businesses should have more than one approver to authorise payments
  2. Review and reconcile: Check you bank accounts, transactions logs and payment reports regularly
  3. Create a supplier/ payee directory: Create a directory of your suppliers and payees
  4. Create a process to recall payments: Businesses should create a process to quickly recall a payment that is suspected to be fraudulent

Fraud Prevention

Scotiabank has created a resource library that teaches customers how to spot and avoid online fraud. The library includes quick guides and interactive courses that you can access for free. There are guides on Preventing Card and Cheque Fraud; Common Scams and Red Flags; and Preventing and Reporting Fraud. Interactive Courses include Fraud Prevention; Cheque Fraud; Business Email Compromise; and Phishing and Malware. Visit the Fraud Prevention page to learn how to keep yourself (and your company) safe.