Canada financial watchdogs share Dos and Don’ts to avoid scams

Rick Steves

“Many Canadians today are being exposed to investment advice through popular social media platforms, apps and websites. While some advice is credible, a lot can be inaccurate, misleading, speculative, or fraudulent.”

The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) is once again warning Canadians of potentially misleading advice and fraudulent online investment opportunities and reminding them to research the claims before investing.

The statement comes amid Fraud Prevention Month and offers common examples of potentially misleading advice or fraudulent investments including influencers or celebrities sharing “secret” stock market hacks and young “millionaires” advising people to invest in particular cryptocurrencies.

Research the legitimacy before making an investment decision

The CSA reminds users that when they watch videos and other forms of unregistered financial advice, they should question the source and legitimacy of the advice.

Stan Magidson, CSA Chair and Chair and CEO of the Alberta Securities Commission, said: “Many Canadians today are being exposed to investment advice through popular social media platforms, apps and websites. While some advice is credible, a lot can be inaccurate, misleading, speculative, or fraudulent. We strongly recommend Canadians research any investment opportunity they receive and its legitimacy before making an investment decision.”

The CSA provided simple tips to help investors avoid becoming victims of online investment fraud:

Do:

  • Be wary. Scammers may show you false returns, fake account balances, or fake investment trading websites to create credibility or to have you “invest” more money.
  • Check the National Registration Search to ensure the individual or firm is registered in your province or territory.
  • Check Whois to ensure the website has not been recently created.
  • Check the CSA Investor Alerts, Disciplined List and Cease Trade Orders to ensure the individual or firm offering advice isn’t considered an investor risk, or the subject of disciplinary or enforcement actions.
  • Think critically about the offer, including the risks and returns being promoted, and compare it to similar opportunities to evaluate whether it might be too good to be true.

Don’t:

  • Give remote access to your device or computer. Fraudsters use this tactic to mine your computer for personal financial information such as passwords and logins.
  • Take investment advice from celebrities, influencers, or anyone other than a registered investment professional. Think about what they have to gain by getting you to invest.
  • Transfer funds to an unknown crypto wallet or give anyone access to your digital wallet. The amount of crypto fraud online is rising quickly – be particularly cautious about any crypto-related offers.
  • Invest on any trading platform or with anyone not registered in your province or territory. Individuals and firms offering investments must be registered to do so.

The CSA offers more information about fraud prevention and related resources on its website.

Romance scams on the rise

Last year, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the CSA warned the public of the rise of fraudsters luring Canadians into online relationships that lead to investment scams.

Investment scams and romance scams were the top two reported scams in 2021, according to data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), which indicates that (reported) romance scams increased 24% year over year (1,546 in 2020 vs. 1,928 in 2021), costing innocent people over $64 million in 2021 compared to over $27 million in 2020.

Techniques include approaching people via dating apps, messaging apps, or other social media sites, and after developing an online relationship, the fraudster brings up an “investment opportunity” and convinces the person to make an initial payment. The fraudster is often able to convince victims to continue investing, which can lead to substantial losses.

Fraudsters are also able to take control of a victim’s friend’s social media accounts in order to pose as such and convince the person to invest, thus taking advantage of their trust: 25% of Canadians stated that they can usually trust someone who is promoting an investment if they have a friend who has already invested with them.

Fraudsters may claim that they will use a person’s money to buy investments, such as crypto assets, and cut off all communication once receiving the funds.

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