An international student who lost nearly $3,000 to a phone scammer is calling for schools to use more effective methods to educate newcomers about common scams.
Sehajdeep Sraa, a 22-year-old business student at Bow Valley College in Calgary, received a phone call on Nov. 30, 2022, about fraudulent activity on his social insurance number.
“It was a panic situation for me, and I didn’t know how to act,” he said.
The caller identified himself as a legal officer from Service Canada and asked Sraa to act immediately to clear his name.
“It seemed real to me as they knew my name. I couldn’t remember the guidelines that were provided by CRA a year back when I first arrived in Canada,” said Sraa, who arrived in Calgary in 2021.
Sraa transferred the money he was asked for and later discovered it was a scam. The amount was half of his second semester’s tuition. He was too embarrassed to share it with someone or report it to the police.
“I was already dealing with the problem of adjusting to a new place, but now I have another one. I don’t know how to differentiate between what is real and what’s fake,” said Sraa.
Sraa’s situation is not uncommon. Statistics from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) suggest that fraudulent activity is increasing and is difficult to track.
As of Dec. 31, 2022, the centre received 90,137 fraud reports, and more than 56,000 victims lost $530 million to fraud. However, the CAFC estimates that only five per cent of scams and frauds are reported.
Scammers generally use phone calls, texts, and other means of communication to urge taxpayers to visit a fake web page, where they are then asked to enter personal information to verify their identity.
But in a recent webinar, the Canada Revenue Agency said, “CRA will never ask you for your bank account number, credit card number, or passport number. These are scams, and you should never respond to these fraudulent communications or click on any of the links provided.”
According to Ravneet Mann, a senior teller at TD Bank, email has made it easy for criminals to reach more people. Even if few reply, they still make more money than robbing a store.
“If you are victimized by such scams, inform your financial institution immediately so they could take action and minimize the loss,” said Mann. “Also, you should inform the police. It will help them keep track of new types of scams and issue a community alert.”
For Sraa, universities and institutions should take scam issues seriously and educate their students via emails and webinars.
“I am new to the country, and I don’t know how Canadian agencies work and contact residents,” he said.
He believes it will be worth everyone’s time as it will protect many students from losing their money and being traumatized for the rest of their lives.