A new survey finds British Columbians anxious about falling victim to fraud, but less willing to do something about it.
More than three out of four B.C. respondents — 77 per cent — told an RBC survey it is easier to fall victim to a scam when struggling financially. Almost four out of five — 78 per cent — said tough economic times will increase everyone’s risk of fraud and about two-thirds (64 per cent) believe fraud will be worse during a recession than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latter fear is supported by evidence.
Research conducted between 2007 and 2009 in the United States found the frequency and severity of fraud rising as the economy worsened. Fraud peaked again during the economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figures from Canada during the COVID-10 pandemic also point to this pattern. In 2022, scam losses totaled $530 million in Canada, up from $380 million in 2021 and and $165 million in 2020, according to the RCMP, citing figures from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Those figures likely under-report total losses. According to estimates from the centre, only five to 10 per cent of fraud cases are reported to police.
RBC’s survey also shows British Columbians are increasingly apathetic when it comes to looking out for scams.
Thirty-one per cent of British Columbians said they are too worried about other things to be concerned about fraud and almost 90 per cent said they were tired about having to be on the lookout for scams, even as they become more aware of them.
Thirty per cent said they are concerned they are starting to miss the signs of potential fraud and three out of four say they worry that it will harder to spot signs of fraud as they age.
Kevin Purkiss, vice-president of fraud management for RBC, said it is understandable people have a lot on their minds and don’t want to think about fraud.
“(But) scams are getting harder to spot and fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated,” Purkiss said. “We’ve seen a strong correlation between increased fraud and economic slowdowns, which means Canadians need to stay vigilant about reducing their risk.”
According to the survey, the average fraud loss in B.C. was $500. Thirteen per cent reported losing more than $10,000 with the Canadian rate being six per cent. Alberta led the way with 16 per cent.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said in a statement that government continues to enhance consumer protection and ensure a fair marketplace.
“Changes in the marketplace, such as online shopping, an aging and diverse population, rising interest rates and inflation, and significantly more debt, have created new challenges and vulnerabilities for consumers,” it reads.
The statement added that government consulted with businesses and consumer advocates to seek feedback on ideas for improving B.C.’s consumer protection laws.
British Columbians who believe they have fallen victim to scams or frauds are recommended to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.