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Fraud prevention: Tips on protecting yourself from scammers

As the pandemic keeps people at home and online, there have been a number of reported scams related to COVID-19. Remember that the federal government will not contact you by text or email to ask you to apply for support measures or to notify you that you’ve received a payment.

Your financial institution will also not send you an email or text message about your account. If you’re not sure, call your bank to verify. Don’t click on any links or provide any personal information.

Different people fall for different types of scams, and we all think it could never happen to us. But fraud can happen to just about anyone — even physicians.

Investment scams targeting physicians

The general perception of physicians as busy high-income earners makes them an attractive target for investment scams. Scammers know that many physicians are so focused on their practice that they may not have time to manage their finances, let alone carefully research an investment proposal.

And because physicians often start their careers with significant debt, some may feel the pressure to “catch up” financially, making them more vulnerable to investment scams. If you’re offered any of these, it’s likely investment fraud:

  1. Investments with high returns and low risk: The risk-return relationship says that higher-risk investments offer higher potential returns. There’s no inverse relationship of low risk and high returns.
  2. Hot tips: If your hot tip is insider information, remember that there are strict insider trading laws that make it illegal to act on such information about a public company. 
  3. Time pressure to buy: Be wary of limited-time-offer investments, and never sign documents you have not read carefully.

Ask yourself who’s selling you the investments, and check whether they’re registered with the Canadian Securities Administrators.

If you’re considering a new investment opportunity outside your financial plan, your advisor can offer a second opinion — and flag potential risks.

Tips from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre — a branch of the federal government — provides a full list of the latest scams with specific tips on how to protect yourself from each one. Its website also offers the following general advice:

  • Never provide more personal or financial information than is required for a transaction or discussion.
  • Be wary of anyone you don’t fully trust who asks for copies of your passport or driver’s licence, your social insurance number or your birth date.
  • Avoid dealing or negotiating with unsolicited callers, especially those claiming you have a computer virus, you owe taxes or there has been fraudulent activity in your bank accounts. Hang up and call the organization yourself using the number from a trustworthy source, such as the organization’s website or invoices and account statements.
  • Review, in depth, the profiles of people who make unsolicited friend requests or who approach you for dates on social media and dating sites. Be especially careful if they promise more than friendship. Delete that request and block future ones.
  • Don’t trust astounding mail offers. If something sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • Throw away any game card you get in the mail saying that you’ve won a big prize or a lottery in a contest you never entered.
  • Be careful with online purchases, especially products at greatly reduced prices. Remember that you get what you pay for. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre suggests verifying the company’s contact information and looking for customer reviews and ratings from third-party sources before you buy.

If you are victimized by a scammer, the centre wants to know about it and can help you. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from reporting the incident: Remember, you aren’t alone.

The bottom line: Scammers like to target the vulnerable, but anyone — even a well-educated and sophisticated person — can be susceptible to clever come-ons.

The above information should not be construed as offering specific financial, investment, foreign or domestic taxation, legal, accounting or similar professional advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of independent tax, accounting or legal professionals.