More than 420 New Brunswickers reported losing a total of $4.2 million to fraud and scams in 2021, a $2.6 million increase over the year before.
The figures come from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), which ranked investment scams as the top category of fraud by dollar loss in New Brunswick. Thirty-one New Brunswickers reported losing a total of more than $1.9 million.
“The reported amount of dollars lost by New Brunswickers to investment scams, including crypto asset trading, has more than doubled since 2020,” says Erin King, Acting Director of Education and Communications at the Financial and Consumers Services Commission (FCNB). “It’s likely that the actual number of victims and money lost are much higher, since it’s estimated that only five per cent of people report frauds or scams.”
While it’s important that New Brunswickers be able to spot a scam, it’s just as important that they take the next step and report it. “Don’t let embarrassment or fear keep you from reporting fraud,” says King. “Every day that you delay reporting fraud is one more day that the scammer is free to spend your money and target your friends and family as their new victims.”
According to the CAFC, the top five frauds and scams reported in New Brunswick in 2021 were:
- Investment scams ($1,926,145 reported lost): A scammer convinces someone to make investments into false or deceptive investment opportunities, promising higher-than-normal returns. Common forms of investment fraud include crypto-asset investment scams, initial coin offerings and pyramid or ponzi schemes.
- Romance scams ($652,101 reported lost): A scammer will most commonly use email, social media sites, and dating websites to set up a fake profile and pretend to be looking for a companion. The scammer will express strong feelings to gain the person’s trust. Usually the scammer will say they need money for a personal or medical emergency, to help pay their bills, or for travel expenses to visit the person.
- Extortion scams ($357,405 reported lost): A scammer uses coercion to unlawfully try to obtain money or services from someone. There are different variations, but they all involve threats of violence, property damage, or reputational harm.
- Emergency scams ($265,050 reported lost): A scammer typically targets older adults by calling, usually late at night, pretending to be a grandchild or family member in trouble. The scammer says they need money sent right away, but they ask the victim to keep it a secret so they do not get in trouble with other family members.
- Service scams ($211,067 reported lost): A scammer poses as a service provider to trick someone out of their money by way of unclear contracts, offering poor quality products or services, using aggressive sales tactics or simply not providing the services paid for. Common service scams include home heating systems, air and water filtration systems, driveway paving or sealing, roofing repairs or other home and yard maintenance services.
To mark Fraud Prevention Month in March, FCNB is raising awareness about the common tactics scam artists use to target their victims. New Brunswickers are invited to learn the red flags of fraud and to have the confidence to say “no” when faced with a fraud attempt.
“Fraudsters are real actors, and it can be easy to fall victim to their scams,” says King. “We want New Brunswickers to know it’s okay to say ‘no’ when they feel pressured, unsure, or are questioning that the deal is too good to be true.”
A wealth of resources to help you learn the red flags of fraud are available at FCNB.ca.
Top investor threats in 2022
The North American Securities Administrators Association has also identified its top 2022 investor threats in its annual survey of securities regulators, including FCNB. The annual survey is designed to identify the most problematic products, practices or schemes facing investors.
The survey revealed the top four threats for 2022 cited most often by securities regulators are:
- Investments tied to cryptocurrencies and digital assets.
- Fraud offerings related to promissory notes.
- Money scams offered through social media and internet investment offers.
- Financial schemes connected to Self-Directed Individual Retirement Accounts.
“Investments related to cryptocurrencies and digital assets, fake online trading platforms and frauds perpetrated through social media continue to be predominant in complaints and enquiries to our organization,” King added.
To identify and avoid investment scams, FCNB encourages New Brunswickers to practice the following:
- Anyone can be anyone on the Internet. Scammers are spoofing websites and using fake social media accounts to obscure their identities. Investors should always take steps to identify phony accounts by looking closely at content.
- Beware of fake client reviews. Scammers often reference or publish positive, yet bogus testimonials purportedly drafted by satisfied customers. These testimonials create the appearance that the promoter is reliable – he or she has already earned significant profits in the past, and new investors can reap the same financial benefits as prior investors. In many cases, though, the reviews are drafted by the scammer and not by a satisfied customer.
- Beware of promises of the payment of safe, lucrative, guaranteed returns over relatively short terms – sometimes measured in hours or days instead of months or years. These promises are often a red flag of fraud, as all investments carry some degree of risk, and the potential profits are typically correlated with the degree of risk.
Audio files of Erin King, FCNB’s Interim Director of Education and Communication:
FCNB has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation regulating mortgage brokers, payday lenders, real estate, securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, cooperatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Online educational tools and resources are available at www.fcnb.ca