Three Generations of My Family Fell For Financial Fraud

These days it’s unlikely you’ll be pickpocketed in the city square by singing and dancing orphans (think “Oliver Twist”). It’s more likely you’ll be mugged without even leaving your home. Financial fraud can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone…and you aren’t even compensated for your loss with a jaunty dance number

I have a few infuriating experiences of financial fraud to share that have been committed against three generations of my family this past year. Kids, seniors, and people with disabilities especially, are ripe for the picking. These shameless thieves don’t discriminate.

Hopefully by sharing what happened to us, (along with some helpful tips from TD!) you’ll avoid the sting of scams like these…. and the new ones cropping up every day.

Gen Z—Tweens and Teens

My teen is uber tech savvy. Without him I wouldn’t know which remote to use to turn on the TV. But, this doesn’t mean he’s immune to fraud. In fact, he was duped into forking over money (ahem, MY money) for an app. He thought he was paying a one-time-only fee. It turns out the payment was charged to my credit card automatically every month. When I finally noticed and figured out what the charge was, I cancelled it. But not after having to jump through several hoops wrapped in red tape first.

His small cyber goof isn’t much in the grand scam scheme of things, but he’s only thirteen—there’s plenty of time yet for him to be suckered. (Our parents never had to deal with this sort of thing, did they? They just sent us outside for the day, no tech worries, no cry.)

Tip: It’s never too early to talk to your kids about financial fraud. One of the most important tips to teach them is… Protect your PIN – The only person who should know your PIN is you – not even your bank knows it. Don’t ever give out your PIN, whether in person, over the phone, online or by mail.

Remind your kids of the above often because teens often miss your valuable lessons because of the 24/7 headphone situation. If you think they’ve got it covered and there’s no chance of them getting scammed, think again. Hold frequent Fraud-terventions to keep everyone vigilant and aware.

Tip: Parents, check your statements, online accounts or banking apps regularly – This will alert you to fraudulent transactions more quickly. Money management apps, like the TD MySpend app, can be helpful tools since they help TD customers to be aware of certain types of transactions on eligible TD accounts and credit cards. The TD MySpend app provides notifications of spend transactions in real-time, which helps make it easy for customers to recognize a fraudulent purchase quickly.

And pay attention to your fraud alerts – Banks are increasingly using text messaging to communicate with their customers. For example, TD Fraud Alerts are texts that notify a customer if TD detects suspicious activity made with their TD Access Card on their personal banking accounts. The customer can reply to the alert with a simple “Y” or “N” to confirm whether they recognize the transaction and TD will unblock or block their TD Access Card accordingly based on the response. TD will never ask a customer to reply to a Fraud Alert text with any personal information or ask customers to click on any links in their reply.

Generation X (that’s me!)

My son is a naive youngster, but surely somebody of my age and experience can’t be fooled, right? Wrong.

I’ve had my credit card “double scanned” at the gas station kiosk (I’m pretty sure that’s where it happened) and my card was used to buy a pile of stuff in a city I’ve never even been to.

As well, I fell prey to that CRA telephone scam going around. A very official sounding man phoned me one afternoon to say that I had made an error on my 2014 tax form and that I owed money to the Canadian Revenue Agency. Math isn’t my strong suit so maybe I did make a mistake?? But wait, I don’t even do my taxes. My accountant does it for me. But the man on the phone had personal information about me, and my family. When I refused to confirm my social insurance number he got flustered and told me five police officers would be sent to arrest me. At that point, I knew it was a scam. I told him my husband, a police officer himself, just came in the door (lie and lie) and would like to speak with him. He promptly hung up.

Phone scams feel extra personal. It seems tele-con artists are devoid of a conscience. This idiotic phone scam also happened to me.

Tip: Verify if it’s real – If you receive an unexpected and too-good-to-be-true cheque, chances are it may be fraudulent. It’s always important to know who you’re doing business with.

Suspicious? Always go directly to the source and ask what’s up? “Prevention and protection are key to fighting financial fraud, and so is the relationship between customers and their financial institution. Both parties working together is the best first line of defense to help identify and avoid financial fraud,” says Mushtak Najarali, Senior Vice President of Everyday Banking Products at TD Bank Group.

Baby Boomers aka Cyber Seniors

Some of the elders of my family enjoy fishing. It can be risky whenever old people are doddering around open water with sharp fishhooks, but it seems ‘phishing’ is even more dangerous.

Tip: Exercise caution when receiving unsolicited e-mails containing attachments or asking you to click a link and provide sensitive information. Banks will not ask you to provide personal information, or login information such as usernames, passwords, PINs, security questions and answers, or account numbers, through unsolicited e-mail.

A senior member of my family got a phone call (vishing) inviting him to take advantage of an “amazing deal”… a brand new iPhone for just one dollar! The details sounded authentic and the offer was exciting. 

This is our new reality—fraud schemes continue to become more sophisticated and play on emotions (fear, worry, excitement, urgency).

Not long ago another family member, also of the Baby Boomer variety, was victimized by a disgusting phone scam. A “lawyer” called her one afternoon to say her son was in custody. He’d been in a car accident and had broken his jaw—therefore he was speaking on his behalf. She could hear her son groaning in pain in the background, calling for his mother. The lawyer informed her that her son had “blown over” on his breath-a-lizer test (apparently he’d had one drink too many over a business lunch) and would be spending the night in jail unless she wired bail money. He would also need cab fare, money for a hotel room for the night, and new clothes since his were destroyed in the accident. Plus, a legal retainer fee, obviously.

Needless to say she freaked. Who wouldn’t? She was in the middle of arranging a fee transfer when her other son walked in. When she told him the “awful news” he picked up the phone and called his brother on his work phone—which he promptly answered and said hello with his fully functional jaw. There was no accident. This was a total scam. Gross right? I have no idea how those people sleep at night.

Final Tips To Help Protect You And Your Family Against Financial Fraud:

  • Once again, always verify (double and triple check if you’re unconvinced) that what you’re hearing or reading is legitimate. An unexpected and too-good-to-be-true cheque, “cry for help” or “amazing deal” is usually fraudulent.
  • Banks and legitimate legal departments will never ask you to provide personal information, or login information such as usernames, passwords, PINs, security questions and answers, or account numbers, through unsolicited e-mail or a phone call.

Financial fraud has been around for a good while, but computer scams seem to be getting sneakier and more sophisticated. Spyware, malware, ransomware… it’s everywhere! Whatever happened to Corningware, and computers the size of a chest freezer? Man I miss the 1980s.

Alas, it’s not the 80s. It’s the 20-teens. Is that what we’re calling this era? Regardless, these are the days of phone scams and financial fraud via cyber space. You may think you’re safe, but if you have a phone, or a computer, and a debit or credit card, then you’re a target.

Let’s share our stories of fraud far and wide, report jerkface scammers, and keep up-to-date on tools that can help keep us safe from modern day pickpockets.

Disclosure: This post is part of the and TD sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors.

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