Canadians Worry COVID-19 Isolation And Increased Time Online Make People More Susceptible To Fraud

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COVID-19 is causing Canadians to feel more concerned about fraud. According to a new survey from Interac Corp., over half (55 per cent) of Canadians worry increased isolation is making people more susceptible to fraud. This concern contributes to heightened feelings of worry, with nearly six in 10 (58 per cent) Canadians reporting the pandemic has increased stress levels, providing additional points of vulnerability for fraudsters to exploit.

“As Canadians enter the second year of COVID-19 we examined the impacts of these pressures on their fraud defences to provide tips on how to prevent emerging scams heightened by the pandemic,” said Rachel Jolicoeur, Director, Fraud Mitigation and Strategy at Interac Corp. “While we anticipated the isolation, financial hardship, and stress from the pandemic would impact Canadians’ defences against fraud, we were surprised to see many groups feeling confident in how they spot scams, despite the rise in fraud during these tough times.”

Key survey findings:

  • Close to six in 10 (57 per cent) Canadians have seen fraud attempts increase this year.
  • Alongside isolation, more than half (52 per cent) believe there is greater risk of fraud due to more time spent engaging in online activities like virtual learning, banking, accessing government services, shopping, and socializing virtually due to pandemic restrictions.
  • This additional screen time is exposing tech savvy generations to the impacts of fraud. In fact, Gen Z adults (18-24 year olds) are the most likely to report that they themselves, someone close to them, or both, have fallen victim to fraud this year (52 per cent), alongside Millennials (53 per cent).
  • Interestingly, by comparison, only 30 per cent of seniors (65+) reported they or someone close to them had fallen victim to fraud this year.

“People are feeling particularly anxious, stressed, and preoccupied as a result of COVID-19 as our sense of normalcy has been disrupted. Additional stressors and pressures, including health, family, work, debt, isolation, loneliness, and general uncertainty make it harder to spot and resist a clever fraud attempt,” said Dr. Christine Purdon, a psychologist from the University of Waterloo who focuses on the persistence of anxiety and its cognitive and behavioural indicators. “Stress and anxiety put us into fight or flight mode, maximizing our potential to respond quickly to a threat. However, this can lead us to make decisions more quickly and with less deliberation – something fraudsters know and act on.”

Despite these worries, Canadians of all generations believe they have the information needed to spot a fraud attempt, with Gen Z appearing to be most resilient in their efforts to combat fraud. Although this generation reports feeling frustrated, stressed, and anxious after fraud experiences, over three in four (77 per cent) now feel more confident in their ability to spot scams, and nearly six in 10 (59 per cent) see themselves as more cautious as a result of past experiences.

“COVID-19 has placed new pressures on Canadians, but they remain vigilant in their attempts to combat these crimes,” said Jolicoeur. “Over half (57 per cent) report they are eager to learn more about how to protect themselves. This is encouraging news as Canadians are the first line of defence in fraud prevention. At Interac, we focus on three tips to do this: stopping, scrutinizing, and speaking up to avoid scams.”

STOP: Don’t feel pressured into taking action if you receive a request for personal information that you weren’t expecting – make it a habit to stop and think rather than quickly respond. Our survey showed that phone calls, emails, and texts asking for personal information are the most prevalent.  With so much of Canadians’ lives now online, combined with feeling isolated and vulnerable due to COVID-19, it’s particularly important to take a moment to stop, breathe, think, and follow your instincts.

SCRUTINIZE: Assess the situation and look for the telltale signs of a scam. Make use of online resources like the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to stay up to date on scams and how to spot them.

SPEAK UP: Confirm the validity and report any concerns. Recognize that you are not alone. There are resources that can help you recognize and respond to fraud attempts. If you suspect fraud, contact the sender of the communication through a different channel to verify it’s real. If you’ve already provided sensitive information, immediately contact your financial service provider and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

SOURCE Interac Corp.

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