I know, you know all about scams. You don’t need to read another post about them, right?

There’s an ironic correlation with risk. The less we think we’re at risk, the more at risk we actually are. When we don’t see ourselves as being vulnerable, we take our eyes off the ball, opening ourselves to being victimized.

This is the case with scams and other fraudulent activity, and that’s why a few years ago, the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust released a report based on research conducted with Gallup. Our intent was to highlight the extent of the problem and also to quantify what we’ve known for quite some time about the true nature of victims.

Picture the person who you think is the most likely to have lost money to a scammer.

I’d bet that you’ve got a mental picture of the little old lady up the street who lives alone. Am I right? According to the study, the person most likely to have lost money to a scammer is between the ages of 25 and 34.

Part of the reason is exposure. Almost every type of scam has existed in some form for decades or longer, but most now occur online. And the more we (especially young adults) live our lives online, the greater potential we have to be victimized.

Just last week, someone I know personally (an intelligent, well-educated person) nearly fell for a CRA scam call. Yes, the highly-publicized, regular-as-clockwork, everybody-knows-about-it CRA scam. But, here’s the thing: the scammers are trained to be intimidating, to recognize and exploit any sign of uncertainty. That’s what they do; it’s their job.

There’s a similar scam which targets new Canadians. As with the CRA scam, perpetrators impersonate government officials; in this case, Citizenship and Immigration officers. The scammers threaten jail or deportation unless the targeted victim gives up their credit card information. Several international students in Halifax have been victimized. My neighbour was aggressively targeted and for a few panicky moments, nearly taken in.

Last year, Canadians reported over $19 million lost to romance scams. These scams have been around since the invention of romance. But the emergence of online dating, and the use of social media to form virtual relationships, has created more opportunities for scammers and greater risk for lonely victims. The sad fact is that the reported $19 million, because of shame and embarrassment, is only the tip of the iceberg.

The moment we start thinking we’re not at risk, we’re at greater risk. We all need to be cautious, to be a bit more skeptical when it comes to links in emails and pop-up windows, and to take a deep breath and press pause when someone is trying to intimidate us into making a hasty decision with our money or private information.

What’s that? Not you? Sure, of course it’s not. So talk to the people in your life about these dangers. Even … no, scratch that. Especially the people you think couldn’t possibly fall victim.

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