indicatorBanking and Fraud Prevention

How to tell if a message is fraudulent

By ATB Financial 23 March 2021 7 min read

Unfortunately, frauds that trick people into giving out their personal information, including financial details (such as login information), are popular. With the ever-growing use of social media, online tools, data storage and digital communication, fraudsters have more tools than ever to scam people and steal their money.

While telephone scams are still common, we need to be aware of phishing scams that use text messaging, email and social media to collect sensitive information. Here are some tips for detecting and avoiding fraud over several different channels.

If you suspect you are receiving fraudulent communications purporting to be from ATB Financial via text, email, social media or over the phone, please report it to

Quick guide to avoiding fraud

  • Look for spelling or grammar mistakes in the message.
    Be suspicious of “urgent” messages. Fraudsters will try to scare you into taking action.
  • Be critical of what type of personal information the message asks for. For example, are they asking for your security questions and security question answers?
  • Be suspicious if they are offering you money, credit, gifts or some other reward.
  • Ask yourself if it makes sense for this organization to be contacting you in this manner.
  • Fraud actors may pretend to be calling from your bank or financial institution. If someone calls and asks you to give them your account details, best to hang up and call your financial institution directly to verify if there is in fact a problem with your account. 

Text (SMS) scams

Phishing is common over text, also called SMS. Phishing is a tactic used by fraudsters to obtain your personal or sensitive information by posing as a legitimate organization. Text message is becoming the most common channel fraudsters use to connect with people. The declining popularity of landlines and a broader awareness of phone and email scams is the reason for this.
Here’s an example. You might get a text from an unknown number claiming to be your bank, mobile service provider, or credit card company. The message will likely ask you to verify your account, take urgent action, or follow a link to receive a refund or credit.

An example of a text message scam asking you to click a link.

When you follow the link, it will take you to a fake website that asks for your credentials. If you provide your login information, the fraudster will now have access to your accounts. Do not click on any links from unknown numbers. Delete the text and block the number.

Fraudsters now have the ability to send fraudulent messages that appear to be from a legitimate organization’s phone number. The best way to protect yourself against this type of fraud is ask yourself, “is it logical for this company to be texting me?” If you weren’t expecting a text, or haven’t been texted before by them, delete the text. If you’re concerned, contact the organization directly using a trustworthy contact. They will be able to confirm whether the communication was legitimate or not.

Email scams

Email phishing is very similar to text phishing. The overall goal is to trick victims into providing their banking credentials and other personal information.

For example, a phishing email might say that your cell phone service provider has overcharged you, and you must click a link to receive your refund. The email will look legitimate and the link will take you to an Interac e-Transfer® landing page that looks real too. But if you enter your banking credentials, the fraudster will now have access to your bank accounts.

Look at the example below. While some of these landing pages are obvious fakes, fraudsters are getting better at making them look like the real thing. This example shows a page that looks like the real thing. To protect yourself against this type of fraud, always check the URL. If the page has a strange URL, like an IP address, exit the page immediately. 

Fraudsters offering a refund or credit can fake an e-transfer landing page.

If you get an email from a service provider or financial institution, always check the email address domain. If there is a sense of urgency, they’re offering to give you money, or you see spelling and grammar mistakes in the message—those are all signs of fraudulent communications. If you are not sure, delete the email and contact your service provider or financial institution through a known and reliable contact.

For more information on how to identify a phishing attempt, watch the video below.

Video: Here are a few tips to avoid getting caught by a phishing email.

Social media scams

Fraudsters are hiding out on social media channels. They can create fake social profiles, take over accounts and join virtual communities. Scammers can also use social media to gain trust from victims.

A fraudster might be using social media advertising to market their scams, disguising themselves as online sellers or offering financial help. The most common social media scammers are online sellers who collect money without delivering the products or services.

If someone asks for personal information, including credentials over social media, do not provide them. If you are buying from an online seller, check out the company first before sending money. If the deal you’re getting is too good to be true, it probably is.

If you get a message through social media from a friend claiming to have information about some financial reward or financial relief, it could be from a scammer who has taken over their account. Investigate the communication thoroughly and connect with your friend through a different channel.

Phone scams

When fraudsters use the phone to steal personal information or lure victims into sending money, they’ll usually use similar methods to scams sent over digital communications.

Scammers could express a sense of urgency. They might alarm you by saying there is a warrant for your arrest, your credit is in jeopardy or someone has taken a loved one hostage. In these cases, stop listening and hang up the phone.

The fraudster might offer you a reward or refund. You might receive a phone call that is a recording telling you that your service provider or bank has overcharged you and owes you money. Or, they’ll offer a prize or an inheritance. You’ll have to call back so they can collect your financial information to provide the refund. Do not participate.

Even if the call comes from a local number, it can still be a scam. Block the number. If you are unsure if the call was fraudulent, hang up and call a reliable phone number for the organization they claimed to represent.

Mastercard® Scams

Credit card scams are also common, specifically Mastercard when it involves ATB customers. Fraudsters will use all communication methods to connect with potential victims, including the phone, email, and text.

For example, a scammer could send a message through text or email that looks like it’s from ATB Financial Mastercard or another credit card provider. It might be reminding you to make a payment or tell you that you have a credit. When you click on the link, it leads to a fake landing page that could look like a legitimate landing page.

A fake login page might ask you for a second authorization. You might be required to put in both your security questions and answer, as well as passwords. If you give the information asked, the fraudster will then have everything needed to access your account.

Fraudsters can simulate your online banking login to gain access to your credentials. 

If you get a strange message from your credit card provider, do not respond to it or click any links. Call the phone number on the back of your credit card to investigate and report the fraud.

Resources that can help

Always report a scam

If you are worried that a communication claiming to be from ATB is fraudulent, please contact to confirm. If you believe you are a victim of fraud from false ATB communication, you can also report the incident to

If you believe you received fraudulent communications or were a victim of fraud in any circumstance, please report all incidents to The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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