Many Canadians are exposed to fraud each year. Here's how business owners can help
Many Canadians are subjected to fraud and scams each year, and to coincide with Fraud Awareness Month in March, CTVNews.ca takes a look at some of the red flags for individuals and businesses.
A survey by Ipsos shows many Canadians are falling victim to fraud, the most common being credit card fraud, email/phishing scams and debit card fraud.
The online survey, commissioned by Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, a national organization representing accountants, found 43 per cent of surveyed Canadians have fallen victim to at least one type of fraud. Ipsos surveyed 2,005 Canadians 18 years or older between Jan. 3 to 5 this year.
Fifty-four per cent of respondents said they reported a fraud situation to their financial institution, while 27 per cent recall telling a family member they had been defrauded. Another 22 per cent shared news they had been subjected to fraud with friends.
Some (17 per cent) who were scammed contacted the organization where they believed the fraudulent transaction was made.
These findings are a concern to Douglas Kalesnikoff, associate professor at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan, who said if businesses are able to recognize the red flags and prevent fraud can help lower the risk for all Canadians
"Somebody could be running a scam on your business and you're not even aware of it," he told CTVNews.ca on Friday. "The company needs to have a good way to monitor how things are going with their various customers."
In some instances, businesses may not be immediately aware their company is being misrepresented by fraudsters. As more Canadians are becoming aware of scams targeting them, Kalesnikoff says there are things to look out for from the business perspective.
WHAT ARE THE RED FLAGS
Fraudsters can target businesses just like individuals with a wide range of tactics. Some scammers may use threats to scare or entice a business into sending them money or sharing personal information.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre created a list of scams affecting businesses in Canada which include extortion threats, bomb threats, falsely billing the company, stealing an executive's email address for wire fraud, ransomware attacks and more.
Kalesnikoff says one of the most common scams attacking businesses are inducements to pay or falsely billing the company. In this instance, an employee may wrongly pay for a service or product.
"A lot of times some of the frauds on businesses are perpetrated by the employees of the business," he said.
Kalesnikoff says employees could be taking inventory, money or making "special arrangements" with a supplier.
"Oftentimes, the businesses have to worry about not only who they're interacting with externally – with suppliers and customers — but also internally, with the employees…are they being possibly perpetrating a fraud?," Kalesnikoff said.
One of the red flags to look out for is where and who the company is interacting with and if they are taking any threats seriously. To do this, Kalesnikoff suggests businesses have a feedback system in place.
"By reviewing these surveys, you might be able to detect (if) there seems to be an issue that customers are upset about," he said.
Listening to suppliers and monitoring the reputation of the business can help detect if a company is being portrayed falsely. This sort of scam can also show financial indicators, Kalesnikoff said.
"If you're also paying more for your goods than you should, because somebody's supplier is scamming you…That will show up in your profitability as to how profitable you are," he said.
WHAT ARE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES
Kalesnikoff says a whistleblower hotline, where other employees can report suspicious activity, is helpful.
"So a lot of times, companies will find that something fraudulent is happening, because a fellow employee is seeing somebody else do something," he said.
However, to prevent employees from wanting to commit fraud, Kalesnikoff says it has to be instilled within the ethics of the company.
"For example, let's say that they (the company) puts a lot of pressure on their salespeople to make certain sales targets," he said.
What could happen in this scenario is employees could "cut corners or give false representations to customers," Kalesnikoff said. "An organization has to be careful as to what sort of compensation plans or what motivations that they are supplying to the employees," he added.
More businesses in Canada have been subjected to ransomware attacks, like Indigo Books & Music Inc., where hackers attempt to obtain money or personal information from customers or employees.
As technology becomes more sophisticated, Kalesnikoff says companies should be investing money and energy to prevent such cyberattacks.
"It gets down to a real system of making sure you have the controls and the firewalls and protection of your information," he said. "And (that) you have appropriate staffing of knowledgeable individuals watching for the possibility and making sure that their systems are secure."
WHAT TO DO AFTER BEING SCAMMED
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) says after being scammed the first thing to do is "collect your thoughts" and "stay calm."
Individuals and businesses are encouraged to gather all information about the fraud including documents, receipts and copies of emails or text messages.
Then, victims of fraud should contact their financial institution to report the incident so that the account can be flagged and passwords changed. The CAFC asks people to report fraud to credit bureaus Equifax and TransUnion and to the CAFC.
"Businesses should have a fraud reaction plan," Kalesnikoff said. "Typically, what you want to be able to do about it is investigate what happened, how it happened, how you can prevent it from happening again."
Kalesnikoff encourages businesses to monitor social media and be "cognizant" of what is going on to ensure fraudsters do not target the company again.
"Listen to what your employees are saying, listen to what customers are saying," he said.
Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 1-888-495-8501 or through the Fraud Reporting System.
Equifax: 1-800-465-7166. After making language selection, say “fraud” or press 3
TransUnion: 1-800-663-9980 and select option 3 for Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to place your alert.