How to Protect Your Family from Cyber Scams

October 16, 2023 | Diane Amato


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Fraudsters are not picky — they will target any individual of any age if they feel they can steal financial and/or personal information from them. From your elderly relatives to your younger children, these tips can help you protect all family members.


Scams come in all shapes, sizes and channels. With an increasing number of ways Canadians can be reached today, scammers have a lot of opportunities to try to connect with and trick people out of money or information. As some age groups use different channels to communicate, fraudsters will use generational trends to their advantage and target scams accordingly.

Here are the most common scams and how to help protect your family against them.

Phone scams

Phone scams happen every day. If you keep count of the number of unknown callers or spam calls you receive in a given afternoon, you’re probably not surprised to hear that.

Although some Canadians are savvy about phone scams, other members of the population are more trusting of callers. Older adults, for instance, are popular targets for phone scammers, as they tend to be home more during the day, are more likely to feel lonely or isolated and are less aware of the sophisticated nature of phone scams.

Here are four ways to protect yourself and the people you love against phone scams:

  • Don’t pick up if you don’t recognize the phone number. If it’s really someone you know on the other end of the line, they’ll leave a message or send a text explaining the nature of their call.
  • Never give away personal information to someone you don’t know. Even if they seem helpful or trustworthy or claim to be from a trusted company or agency. Hang up if they request personal details from you.
  • Beware of grandchild impersonation. This is one of the most prevalent scams around today and has tricked older Canadians out of nearly $10 million last year. If anyone calls claiming to be your grandchild — especially if they’re asking you for money, a credit card or a gift card to help with an emergency — don’t fall for it. Hang up and call your family directly.
  • Don’t buy gift cards as a form of payment. A common phone scam is for a caller to buy gift cards in exchange for a cheque or other payment of a higher amount. Legitimate companies will never ask you to settle a debt or pay a bill by purchasing gift cards.

Watch the video below to learn more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Email scams

While texting and direct messaging have become increasingly popular ways to connect, email remains a standard method of communication across all age groups. Older adults may be more vulnerable to email scams as they’ve become increasingly sophisticated and harder to detect.

Although your younger family members may not use email much, it’s also important to share these tips with them, as most students will have an email address through school and use the channel to connect with teachers and classmates.

Here’s how to protect your family from email scams:

  • Never write personal information in an email. Avoid including account numbers, birthdays, social insurance numbers and other sensitive data.
  • Don’t open attachments or click on links if you don’t know the source. If you receive an email with a suspicious attachment, simply ignore the email and delete it.
  • Be aware of fake email addresses and websites. If an email sounds strange or is written with typos and incorrect grammar — yet claims to be from a legitimate company — it’s best to ignore and delete it. Many scammers create email addresses and websites that look authentic but aren’t real at all.
  • Keep your email address safe. Your email address is personal — avoid posting it on public forums or entering it on sites you don’t trust. And just because someone at a store asks for it doesn’t mean you have to give it out.

Learn more in the email safety video below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social media scams

As social media has gained in reach and popularity among Canadians of all ages, it has also gained momentum with fraudsters for scams. Sitting down and providing guidance to your younger family members is especially important when it comes to social media, given the very central role it plays in the lives of young people today. Studies show that 86 per cent of kids between the ages of 9 and 11 have an online account that requires users to be 13 and older, and 77 per cent have their own device. Given their frequent use of social platforms, children are prime targets for cyber criminals.

While it’s relatively easy for scammers to connect with users, staying safe is also easy — as long as you know what to watch for and how to manage your settings.

Here are tips to help protect your family on social media:

  • Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
  • Avoid posting or DMing sensitive information like your phone number, address, and even travel information when leaving for vacation.
  • Max out your privacy settings. Privacy settings are customizable, and it’s best to choose options that offer the highest level of security.
  • Turn off geotagging/location in the device’s settings. Geotagging gives cybercriminals, fraudsters and other bad actors the ability to see where you — or your children — are at any given moment.

Discover more ways to help protect your family from social media scams in the video below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone at any age can become a victim of a cyber scam. Raising awareness with your family members about the types of scams that exist — and sharing how they can protect themselves — can go a long way to keeping your whole family safe.


Diane Amato is a Toronto-based freelance writer who loves to talk about finances, travel and technology.


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