March is Fraud Prevention Month and the scams are as tricky as ever. In 2016, Canadians were defrauded out of more than $80 million. Here, six of the most common scams—and how to stay ahead of them.

Much is said about the vulnerability of seniors when it comes to scams, yet the numbers seem to tell a different tale. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), Canadian victims in the age categories of 50-59 and 60-69 recorded similar losses that surpassed the $12 million mark. The two age demographics account for a considerable portion of the total losses that year which neared $90 million.

The lesson: anyone can fall victim to a scam and whether you feel like you fit the bill or not, it's best to be prepared.

Here, six of the most common scams making their rounds and how you can stay ahead of them.

1. The computer technician scam
My mother isn't a gullible woman, yet she nearly fell victim to a fraudster on the phone claiming to be a computer technician.

After following instructions to enter a code into the search bar of her computer, a window popped up displaying several error messages. The "technician" claimed that the errors were caused by viruses and that he would remove them for a small fee charged to her credit card.

When she told him she would have to discuss it with her husband, the so-called technician went from politely persistent to rude and forceful. It was then she realized something was amiss.

Since my mother was nearly duped, the scam has evolved. Victims are often told, over the phone, that hackers have control of their computer and that they'll be responsible for any wrongdoing. Under that pressure, the scammers persuade victims into downloading software or allowing remote access to their personal computers. With either scam, culprits can gain access to banking and credit card information, among others.

Tips to stay ahead

  • It's best to be suspicious of anyone trying to rush you into a decision over the phone. Asking if you can call them back is usually enough to scare them off.
  • Don't touch your computer. These fraudsters know how to make it seem like your computer has serious problems. It's all smoke and mirrors.

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