Your phone rings and it’s a number you don’t recognize. You answer anyway and a distorted recording tells you to enter your Social Insurance Number to hear an important message about the date and time of COVID-19 vaccinations for your family. Your heart races and you are about to punch in the numbers when you think…hang on…this is a scam. Or is it?

Many Canadians may be savvy at spotting scams, but it is still a growing problem. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, more than 40,000 Canadians were victims of fraud in 2020, a 50% increase from 2019.1 Many seniors are vulnerable, often representing up to 30% of victims.2 March is Fraud Prevention Month, and even if we think we’re on our guard, it’s always good to assess how secure you are, reevaluate your computer security, and see how online banking tools and services can help make you more secure.

Perhaps because of the frequency of fraudulent phone calls and emails that infiltrate our daily lives, Canadians have a high awareness of fraud. Nearly half (44%) of the respondents in a recent TD survey believe they have been targets, including 39% who said they had spotted and avoided falling victim to fraud.3 Unfortunately, our locked-down life during the COVID-19 pandemic may be putting seniors in a more precarious position: A majority of Canadians (61%) draw a strong link between social isolation and vulnerability to fraud.4

During this pandemic, when many of us are uncertain about the future, there’s evidence that scammers are exploiting fears with offers of vaccines and treatments.5

Tammy McKinnon, Senior Vice President, Financial Crimes and Fraud Management at TD Bank, says Canadians must continue to be vigilant when protecting their money, when answering the phone or surfing the internet.

“It may come as no surprise that fraudsters continue to target seniors as potential victims because they may be more isolated or unfamiliar with technology,” she says.

“One thing that can help is to realize, while there are individual thieves who can target you personally, we are also fighting sophisticated criminals. Something as seemingly innocent as completing a quiz on social media can help scammers,” McKinnon says.

Here are several ideas to consider that may help you protect yourself from fraud.

Keep your online world secure

This means keeping your computer safe — and therefore your online accounts safe. This includes using strong, unique passwords, changing them often, not sharing passwords with anyone, and enabling two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security to your accounts. Be wary of clicking links in emails — even if emails claim to be from the bank or the government. These organizations will never ask you to share your personal confidential information. People should update their computer’s anti-virus software to ensure they have the latest security updates.

Be suspicious

Fraudsters often play on your emotions. A common tactic in phone scams is for the caller to create a sense of urgency by claiming a family member is experiencing an emergency and needs “a quick $500” to get out of trouble. If anyone is using high-pressure tactics to get money or to find out personal information, be highly mistrustful and take time to verify the story. Offers of large sums of money or prizes are other common tactics fraudsters use to try and make you act before thinking.

Use bank-provided tools

Many banks have apps and alerts that allow you to see and verify your activity. For instance, many banking apps can text your phone if unusual activity is detected. Money management apps (like TD MySpend) can provide instant notifications on spending which can help customers recognize suspicious transactions quickly.

Consider hiring a helping hand

As people age, they may not have the time or the inclination to focus on the specifics of their day-to-day finances or lifestyle concerns like house maintenance and the paying of bills. Account security, too, can be another worry. One method to ensure these personal care matters are being looked after safely is through services like TD Care Connect, a private trust product offered by TD Wealth.

Susan Mabley, Associate Vice President, Private Trust, TD Bank, says the bank is aware that fraud is on the rise and is committed to finding ways to make seniors less vulnerable. She says with TD Care Connect, everything from ensuring bills get paid on time to arranging basic home care are in the hands of professionals who are committed to making the lives of seniors secure and straightforward. If fraud or scams are a worry, Mabley says TD Care Connect can help ensure all activities associated with providing this service have the highest level of security.

“All transactions would go through TD Care Connect,” says Mabley, “which offers additional security to our clients. The active oversight of account activity by a trust officer provides little opportunity for frauds to occur.”

For more information on how to protect yourself from fraud, visit the Fraud Protection section of TD’s website. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, contact the police and the institution involved, such as your bank. You may also wish to report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre where a database of current and previous frauds are tracked.