Common Scams and how to protect yourself

False tax collectors

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is warning Canadians to be careful of emails, voice mails, even mail claiming to be from the CRA. These are phishing scams that could result in identity theft. Email scams may also contain embedded malware or malicious software that can harm your computer and put your personal information at risk of compromise. The CRA does not email Canadians and request personal information.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does NOT use the Interac e-Transfer service to collect or disburse payments. If you receive an email stating that the CRA is trying to send you money or verify personal information, do not respond. This is a known phishing scam, created by fraudsters.

The CRA will not do the following:

  • Send an email with a link and ask you to divulge personal or financial information.
  • Ask for personal information of any kind by email or text message.

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?
  • How did the requester get my email address or telephone number?
  • Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?

The CRA even has a video warning Canadians about this particular scam.


Fake transfers

Criminals may attempt to convince you they have sent you money, by sending you an email that appears to be using the Interac e-Transfer service, but isn’t. For example, you may receive an email stating that Interac is holding money in escrow until you provide evidence of having shipped goods. Interac does not offer an escrow service. Do not assume you will be able to receive money until you can confirm that it is in your bank account.


What are phishing scams?

Phishing is a scam where fraudsters attempt to acquire personal and/or financial information, such as passwords, card numbers, etc., by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business through electronic communications. Phishing is typically carried out using email or an instant message, although phone contact has been used as well. In some instances, the fraudster sends authentic-looking emails or text messages (smishing) that appear to come from legitimate companies, requesting recipients to disclose personal and/or financial information that is later used to commit fraud. Be suspicious if you receive a notice for an Interac e-Transfer that you were not expecting. If in doubt, contact the sender to confirm that he or she has initiated your transfer.

Contact us immediately, toll-free at 1.888.440.4480 or at your local Prospera branch if you suspect someone has gained knowledge of your password/PIN, or if you suspect any loss, theft or unauthorized use of your account.


Overpayment scam

This is how an overpayment scam typically unfolds:

  • A  person who has placed an online ad selling a high-priced item such as furniture, a car or piece of electronic equipment receives an offer for the item, usually by email.
  • The “buyer”/scammer will send a cheque or money order for the item, but for an amount much larger than the asking price. For example, you’re selling your item for $1,500 but the buyer/scammer sends you a cheque for $3,000.
  • The scammer will claim the extra money is to cover the costs of shipping or customs fees and should be sent to a third party.
  • The seller is asked to deposit the cheque or money order into their account and then withdraw the “extra money” and send it to a specified third party account.
  • Later, once the cheque or money order is processed, the seller discovers that it was fraudulent. The seller won’t get any of the funds promised by the buyer and, worse, they have handed over some of their own money right back to the scammer.
  • In some cases, the buyer might also claim they have sent a larger cheque “by accident,” however the outcome is the same, once the seller sends back the “extra funds,” they discover the cheque was fake.

How can you protect yourself?

This scam can end up being very costly for the seller who has been targeted, in addition to receiving a fraudulent cheque or money order, the seller may have already sent the scammer the item that was for sale. Add this to the funds the seller may have sent back in “overpaid” fees, and this scam could prove to be very costly. Thankfully, there are a few tips you can follow to make sure you don’t end up a victim of this scam:


  • Beware of buyers who send more money than you’re asking for.
  • Instead of a cheque or money order, request electronic payment such as an email money transfer, a wire transfer or payment though an online payment service such as PayPal. This way, the funds are deposited into your account and are guaranteed right away and you don't have to wait for a cheque or money order to go through the clearing system to learn it is fraudulent. 
  • If you receive a cheque or money order that is more than the agreed amount of money, refuse the payment and send it back to the buyer.
  • Before you agree to a sale, get the details of your buyer including their full name, telephone number and address.
  • Remember to treat a money order like a cheque; these funds are not the same as cash and must be cleared the same way that a cheque clears.

A cheque or money order is a payment agreement made between a buyer and seller. The financial institution processes the payment but they are not involved in the agreement. You are responsible for the items you deposit into your bank account. If the item is returned as fraudulent, as the depositor you are liable for the full amount. So if you're in doubt, or if the situation seems fishy in any way, request electronic payment or find another buyer. These payments happen right away and you don’t have to wait for a cheque to clear.


 Grandparent scam

The exact details of this scam may vary but, in general, this is how it works:

  • A senior will receive a phone call from someone who starts the conversation with, “Grandma? Do you know who this is?”
  • The victim, thinking it’s one of their grandchildren will respond with, “Yes, I know it’s you (name of grandchild).” The caller will then start using this name to gain credibility with the victim.
  • The caller will claim to be in trouble and will request money right away. Often they’ll say they were in a car accident with a rental car or they are under arrest and in jail in another city or country. The “grandchild” will tell the victim he doesn’t want his parents to know and ask the victim to keep it a secret.
  • To make the story seem more credible, the caller might also put another person on the phone to act like a police officer, bail bondsperson or lawyer.
  • The victim, wanting to help, will withdraw funds from their bank account and wire money to the “grandchild.” The money will be sent through a money transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram, where the criminal can then pick it up at any location they choose anywhere in the world.

How you can protect yourself

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that you can take to avoid falling victim to this fraud:

  • Never offer information to the caller. If they prompt you with a question like, “Do you know who this is?” simply say no and have them tell you.
  • Press your caller for details. If the person on the other end of the phone is explaining his/her story, ask them questions about their specific location or have them repeat their story. A criminal will have a hard time recalling details or coming up with them on the spot
  • Ask the caller a few personal questions that a real grandchild could answer but an imposter could not, such as where they were born or how many siblings they have.
  • After you hang up, verify the story by calling the parents or other relatives of the “grandchild.”
  • Never wire money to someone under uncertain conditions. It is nearly impossible to recover or trace money that has been wired.
  • Never provide your credit card number over the telephone or Internet unless you are sure about who you’re giving it to.

If you’ve been caught in a scam like this one, call your local police department. Financial intuition staff members are aware of these kinds of scams and are trained to pay attention if a customer makes an unusual transaction — for example, withdrawing more money than usual. However, as the owner of the account, you are ultimately responsible for any funds that you withdraw from your own bank account. That’s why it’s especially important to ask questions and be 100 per cent positive about who you’re talking to before you send any money.



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