How can you help a loved one who is a victim of a scam?
By ATB Financial 3 March 2020 4 min read
Recently, there have been numerous stories on the news about financial scams and frauds. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, in 2019 over $98 million was lost in Canada to scams and fraud. Innocent and trusting people are falling victim to these scams, causing major financial loss and the negative feelings associated with being exploited. For most victims, it’s embarrassing, and asking for help might not be easy.
So, how can you help victims of a scam?
Help your loved one acknowledge they are a victim of a scam.
If you have been told or suspect your loved one is a victim of fraud, the first step is to help them acknowledge they are a victim.
In some cases, a victim might be in denial or not even realize they’ve been duped. For others, admitting they have been tricked and suffered financial loss might be difficult, and they might try to hide it. Not only do victims of scams experience financial loss, but they can also experience stress, shame, and emotional loss. If you suspect they are a victim, you should watch for changes in their behavior and mood, spending habits, health, and even physical appearance.
It’s also important to communicate and understand that fraudsters are extremely skilled at what they do. Tricking people is their job, and they will use whatever tactic and technology they can think of to make their story very believable. With over 19,000 Canadian fraud victims in 2019, your victim is not alone.
Make sure to report the scam to the authorities.
Alerting the authorities of scams or potential scams is essential to help stop the scams and reduce potential future victims. For fraud cases, the first step in reporting is to alert your local law enforcement.
In addition to law enforcement, scams should also be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Reporting can be done online or through their toll-free line at 1-888-495-8501. The anti-fraud centre will help determine the severity of the scam and advise on how your loved one can protect themselves and their information moving forward. Information from all reported scams is collected and sent to other fraud organizations internationally. The more information circulated, the quicker the media is alerted, and the sooner that type of scam can be detected by future potential victims.
Report the fraud to the victim’s financial institution.
If your loved one has provided personal account information, or feels their financial accounts have or might be compromised, also reach out to their financial institution. The financial institution can help close or pause accounts if account numbers and other personal information was shared. A financial institution can also provide guidance on what can be done to cut all ties with the fraudster and help protect accounts from future scams.
Ensure their personal information is protected moving forward.
Scammers can also use any personal information they collected against your loved one in the future. This includes phone numbers, social insurance numbers, email logins, and personal identification. If any personal information was given, reach out to the credit bureau (Equifax and TransUnion) to report it. These organizations can place an alert on file, and your loved one will be notified should someone attempt to apply for credit in their name.
Protecting their information moving forward also includes advising they change all online passwords, set up locks and authentication on social media accounts, and, in some cases, change their cell phone number. Taking precautions like these and others is something the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre can also guide you through, depending on how wide-spread communication with the fraudster was.
Make sure your loved one is supported emotionally.
Being tricked feels terrible. It can harm a person’s mental health, cause shame, disappointment, and when there is a major financial loss, it can also cause stress and anxiety. If it was a romance scam, they might even feel broken-hearted. Your loved one is going to need emotional support at this time.
Ask law enforcement about victim services programs in your area. They can provide helpful resources for your loved one that can help them heal from the trauma of being victimized, and the other negative impacts on their well-being. Resources might include written materials, referring them to a support group and/or counseling services.
A big part of helping victims of a scam is listening to them. Let them know that you are there for them and help them find ways to move forward and not dwell on the situation. You can encourage them to talk to someone outside of their circle, like a counselor, to help them heal and move on.
Tips for avoiding future scams.
Proper education on recent scams and fraud is key. You can find information on current and recent scams from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and law enforcement agencies. The anti-fraud centre has lists of recent scams and fraud on their homepage.
Once you or a loved one has been a victim of a scam or fraud, their name could be shared with other fraudsters. Be aware that a person who has been targeted once, might be targeted again.
Always think twice if someone approaches you and asks for you to participate in something or buy something, and especially if they’re asking for any personal information. If you haven’t initiated the transaction, be leery. In the case of your loved one, help them by asking questions and take some time to investigate before there is further engagement with anyone who has approached them. Make sure they are not alone in prevention moving forward.