Chances are, you’ve experienced at least a few phishing scams in your day. Whether it’s a phone call, text, email, or direct message, these communications can be easy to brush off when they obviously aren’t from a legitimate source.
But what happens when that source appears to be your financial institution? And what about when they’re so convincing that you don’t even question it?
Terms like “bank fraud”, “impersonation fraud”, and “phishing scams” all refer to this exact issue — when fraudsters pose as representatives of your bank to gain access to our financial accounts and money.
So, what does bank fraud actually look like? How can you spot it if and when it happens to you? With more and more of these instances occurring in recent weeks, let’s talk fraud prevention.
What bank fraud looks like.
You receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from Vancity Visa’s Fraud department. After answering, you double-check your call display — yep, it’s the correct toll-free number for the Visa department that you’ve saved in your Contacts.
The caller advises you that fraud has occurred on your Vancity Visa account, including thousands of dollars to an online casino. They insist on “verifying” your full name, date of birth, SIN, address, and your Visa card information – including card number, expiration date, and the 3 digits on the back of your card – to confirm they’re speaking with the “cardholder”.
Once you provide these details, the caller tells you they’re updating your information to secure your account, and they’ll block the fraudulent transactions before sending you a new Visa card in the mail.
You might leave the interaction feeling relieved that the fraud issue has been resolved, and grateful that the Visa department was diligent enough to reach out. But the truth is there was never any fraudulent activity on your account. At least, not until now.
In fact, while speaking to you, this so-called “representative” has been using your personal information to make thousands of dollars in payments to online casinos and luxury retailers. And since you just spoke to a supposed representative on the phone, you don’t realize the truth of the matter until weeks later.
This is one of many scenarios that fraudsters will play out in order to impersonate a financial institution — a theme that’s unfortunately become much more common in recent months.
A few red flags of bank fraud.
No matter how legitimate a communication may seem, if the person you’re speaking to asks for your personal or financial information, pressures you to act immediately, and/or asks you for cash or a payment of some kind — it’s more than fair to see these as red flags that could result in fraudulent activity.
Plus, as technology advances, fraudsters refine their tactics with new tools like caller ID spoofing, which allows them to falsely display the phone number of a financial institution.
According to the Government of Canada, there were over 90,000 reports of fraud across the country in 2022, and new scams and frauds are invented every single day. But staying up to date with fraud prevention tips and building your security awareness are the best ways to help ensure you’re protected.
Our top 5 anti-fraud tips.
At Vancity, there’s nothing more important to us than our members and their safety. Please take a few minutes to review these anti-fraud tips for keeping your personal and financial information safe at Vancity.
1. We’ll never ask you for your password or security information over the phone.
Vancity representatives may contact you to verify activity on your accounts, but we’ll never ask for your banking passwords, access codes, or one-time passwords for any reason. This information is yours and should never be shared with anyone. If someone asks you for this information, end contact with them immediately. Shared your information already? Don’t panic. Give our Member Services Centre a call.
2. When in doubt, call us back.
If you’re ever concerned that you’re not speaking to a real Vancity representative, hang up and call the relevant phone number listed on the back of your debit or Visa card, or on our Contact Us page.
3. Read and click carefully.
Beware of unexpected messages, spelling errors, attachments, and links. Avoid opening any attachments or clicking links from unknown or suspicious senders — and feel free to call us to confirm that an email or other Vancity communication is legitimate. Be wary of social media accounts posing as Vancity. If someone follows you, or messages you from an account that looks like Vancity, make sure it’s from one of Vancity’s official accounts. If someone contacts you on Vancity’s social media asking for personal details, ignore them. We will never contact you for banking information from our social channels.
4. Don’t feel pressured or rushed.
Fraudsters will often use high-pressure tactics to make you feel intimidated or afraid. If you feel pushed into making an immediate payment, for example, end contact immediately.
5. If you know or suspect that fraud activity has occurred, contact us right away.
Whether you think you may have been a victim of fraud, unauthorized online banking, or debit card transaction activity, we can help. Report the incident to us immediately — the earlier this kind of scam is reported to Vancity, the sooner we can provide support and protect your account.
There’s no doubt that bank fraud can be deeply upsetting or even devastating for victims. But together, we can help keep you and your accounts safe. Whether you bank with Vancity or elsewhere, if you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud, let your bank know immediately and report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.