Canadians reported $16 billion in fraud losses between 2014 and 2019, according to Statistics Canada.
A new report released by the federal agency on Monday shares findings from the General Social Survey (GSS), which in 2019 allowed Canadians to self-report fraud for the first time.
According to the report, one in six people said they were a victim of fraud between 2014 and 2019. About 24 per cent of people reported losing $1,000, while three per cent reported losing $10,000.
The median loss due to fraud during that time period was $600.
The majority of Canadians believe fraud has increased in Canada, the report notes.
The release of the report comes on the heels of the RCMP partnering with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) to establish an Open Government Portal to allow transparency regarding the number of Canadians who have fallen victim to scams. According to the RCMP, both 2021 and 2022 were “historic” years for the number of reported losses to fraud.
In 2021, reports to the CAFC showed that $380 million was lost to fraud. In 2022, this amount rose to $531 million.
Many Canadians are aware of increasing phone and email scams, but fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated. A previous report by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) said the riskiest scam in Canada is a home improvement fraud. The overall median dollar loss reported was $300 in 2022, up from $250 in 2021, representing a 20 per cent increase.
FRAUD IS THE MOST COMMON CRIME
Fraud topped the list of crimes reported by Canadians in the survey.
Roughly five million people aged 15 years and older — 17 per cent of the Canadian population — reported being a victim of at least one fraud between 2014 and 2019.
In the 12 months leading up to the GSS survey, nearly 2.5 million people — 7.8 per cent of the Canadian population aged 15 years and older — reported being a victim of fraud.
“This is more than for any other crime measured by the GSS,” it states. “By comparison, it’s almost double the number of people (1.4 million people; 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population) who have been victims of a violent crime, which includes sexual assault, robbery and assault.”
Police reported data, StatCan said, shows fraud rose from 87,174 cases in 2011 to 168,483 cases in 2021. The numbers continue to increase as fraud represented more than half — or 57 per cent — of cybercrime in 2021.
Data from the BBB shows scammers often target individuals with different types of fraud, with the riskiest scam in Canada being a home improvement fraud. In June, the Ontario Provincial Police issued a warning to older adults about online.
The GSS found that Alberta residents had the highest proportion of people who were victims of fraud.
On the flip side, people in Nunavut, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec were less likely to fall victim to scams.
The data was also broken down by fraud reports in different cities. The report states that people living in Edmonton, Victoria and Calgary were more likely to be victims of fraud, while those in London, Ont., Saskatoon, Halifax and St. John’s were less likely to fall victim to fraud.
PERSONAL INFORMATION LEAKED WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE
Many Canadians did not realize fraudsters had taken personal information from them, the report suggests.
According to the data, about 41 per cent of victims did not know their personal information was obtained.
Of those who were aware of their personal information being obtained or leaked, 39 per cent said scammers had cloned or copied their debit or credit card.
Canadians’ information was also obtained through personal emails that had been pirated, with 18 per cent of people surveyed indicating this happened to them, followed by information given by the individuals at 16 per cent, and data leaks at 10 per cent.
“In most cases, fraud victims discovered the incident while reviewing their bank or credit card statements (38 per cent) or after a financial institution or a credit card company had contacted them (31 per cent),” the report states.
CANADIANS TAKING MEASURES TO AVOID FALLING VICTIM TO FRAUD
Nearly all — or 95 per cent — of Canadians have taken some steps to protect themselves from scammers.
The report notes that 83 per cent regularly review bank statements, 73 per cent shred mail, bills or receipts and 72 per cent delete suspicious emails.
Despite the various precautions Canadians are taking, about 48 per cent said their personal information was considered “somewhat well protected,” while 34 per cent said it is “not very well protected.”