According to the Competition Bureau of Canada, cyber scams have been on the rise in the last few years. Criminals are getting better at using the latest platforms and technologies to commit fraud. March is International Fraud Prevention Month. What are you doing to protect yourself and fight back against fraud?

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The first step to prevention is learning to recognize different types of scams. Here are four scams to watch out for in 2018.

Phishing

Phishing is a scam with a hook—an email that looks and sounds legitimate but isn't. The email looks like it's coming from a bank or service provider or even from someone close to you. If you take the bait, you're redirected to a website that looks normal but really is a copy.

Thinking you're on the real website, you're not surprised or even suspicious when you're asked for personal information like your login details, password, account number or social insurance number. Once you provide your personal information, scammers can use it to commit fraud.

Emergency scam (grandparent scam)

If you get an email from someone claiming to be a friend or relative in urgent need of cash to get out of trouble, it's probably a scam! Anyone can be targeted by an emergency scam, but scammers often prey on seniors. They can make their stories sound very believable.

For example, they'll pretend to be the victim's grandchild. The scammer will ask for money to be sent immediately to help them get out of trouble. The "grandchild" will insist on keeping this a secret so their parents don't find out.

The victim will go on to send money through a money transfer service, pre-paid gift, credit cards or even in bitcoins in hopes of helping their "grandchild." Unfortunately, the victim gets scammed and the money goes to the fraudster.

Wire fraud

Also known as the "supplier swindle" or the "CEO scam," this is a type of fraud that targets businesses.

In some cases, an employee gets an email from a high-ranking executive — often the CEO or CFO. The email tells the employee that they need to transfer money quickly to close an important deal.

In other cases, an employee gets an email from a trusted supplier. The email tells the employee that an order has not been paid or that their account information has changed. The employee is asked to change the supplier's banking information and send the payment.

In both scenarios, the email looks legitimate, so the employee goes ahead and sends the money. In fact, the email was a very good imitation and came from a scammer.

Extortion scams

Extortionists are scammers who use every trick in the book to persuade you to give up money, services or even property. They can target anyone.

They contact you by phone, text messages, emails or social media messages. Once they have your attention, they lay out a sophisticated scenario in which you are left with what looks like only one sensible choice: to pay them. They may resort to threats against you, your family, your property or your reputation.

In the end, the only thing they want is your money. They may ask for cash, but often enough they'll be subtle and look for other means of payment: one that fits their scenario. They may ask for an e-transfer, gift cards, pre-paid credit cards or even cryptocurrencies like bitcoins.

If you believe you're being threatened by an extortionist, don't panic. Call the police. Extortion is a criminal offence.

Remember, you can protect yourself and fight back against fraud by learning to recognize scams. Want to know more? Visit the Competition Bureau of Canada website (look for The Little Black Book of Scams) or servus.ca/security.

Source: Competition Bureau of Canada. (2018, February 22). Fraud Facts—Recognize, Reject, Report Fraud.