Businesses and consumers urged to be more vigilant about fraud

This year marks the 12th anniversary of Fraud Prevention Month, the annual public awareness campaign held every March that aims to prevent Canadians from becoming victims of fraud, and encourages Canadians to recognize, report and stop it from happening.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, it is estimated that less than five per cent of the total number of fraud victims report their experiences to law enforcement agencies.

Over half of Canadians (54 per cent) say they are more concerned about identity theft today than they were a year ago, results that came out of a recent study by Equifax Canada on consumer spending habits online and in stores.

Equifax Canada organizes, assimilates and analyzes data on more than 600 million consumers and more than 80 million businesses worldwide, and its databases include more than 200 million employee files.

“Do not give out your personal information unless you have initiated that contact,” says Kristina Zentil, director of fraud strategy and identity management for Equifax Canada.

“Also, protect your social insurance number and your mail to prevent the creation of a synthetic identification.”

Criminals are targeting consumers and business owners to apply for credit or a financial product on your name or business, she explains.

“Monitor and be aware of what is happening with your credit file,” says Zentil. “Be alert for any companies putting enquiries against your credit file. Do you recognize those companies and are they legitimate? Have you applied for those credit products?”

Some of the biggest corporate and consumer fraud risks also exist internally within businesses and externally through digital data compromises, say experts.

“We are seeing an increased threat now through social engineering and social media sites,” states Jacklyn Davies, partner and B.C. leader of investigative and forensic services at MNP, a leading national accounting, tax and business consulting firm in Canada.

“One of the schemes is to impersonate a high-level member of an organization through finding out the email addresses from within the business. It could be an email pretending to come from the chief financial officer directing the controller to transfer funds offshore and the controller does so believing their superior told them to do so, without following the necessary protocols.”
Once transferred, the money typically does not remain in the receiving account for long and can be moved in as little as five minutes to another country, and tracing it is next to impossible, explains Davies.

Fraud extends even further to supplementary health insurance offered by Canada’s life and health insurers, which provide coverage to approximately 27 million Canadians, says Karen Voin, director of health claims anti-fraud and  electronic claims at the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. 

“In North America alone, it is estimated two to 10 per cent of all health-care dollars are lost to fraud,” says Voin.
“With the industry paying over $30 billion annually for health-care services delivered to Canadians, we could be looking at upwards of a billion dollars, which costs all Canadians and puts the integrity of the health-care system at risk.”

The industry provides supplementary health insurance as well as a wide range of financial security products such as life insurance and annuities, including RRSPs, RRIFs and pensions.