Travel: How to avoid financial fraud

Chloe D’Agostini was at a co-working cafe while living abroad when someone walked in, sat next to her and discreetly stole her wallet from her pocket.

The 30-year-old from Toronto said she didn’t realize her wallet was missing until 20 minutes later, when she was packing to meet a friend for lunch. Footage from the cafe’s security camera later confirmed the theft.

Thousands of dollars were accumulated on various credit cards within 30 minutes.

D’Agostini then received a call from someone claiming to be from Apple, stating that they had noticed suspicious activity using their Apple ID and asked if they could download software so they could help. After a few minutes, D’Agostini found the call suspicious and hung up. She later called Apple, who explained that they don’t call without an appointment booked.

While theft and fraud happen everywhere, the challenge of traveling is that you may be spending more time on the phone than basking in the sun on the beach and not being able to stop by your local bank to sort it out in person. Other times, you might be stuck with an online travel scam before you can even withdraw.

TransUnion’s latest fraud report, released in May, shows that travel and industry saw a 59.9 percent increase in digital fraud attempts for transactions originating in Canada and 13.3 percent globally.

The rise in digital travel fraud comes as the economy moves towards pre-pandemic levels, particularly in the travel industry.

“Canadians were beginning to feel more comfortable with the idea of ​​traveling again, and scammers have caught on and turned their attention to the surge in activity in this sector,” said Ted Trush, director of Solutions Consulting at TransUnion Canada.

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Examples of digital fraud in this sector are consumers who travel and have their credit cards stolen to charge fraudulent charges. Digital travel fraud also affects consumers directly on the web or mobile devices, for example through encounters with fake travel agencies or hotel websites.

“Essentially, scammers go where the money is. For example, mobile app traffic has steadily increased over the past decade, so scammers tend to pay attention to it. When chip-and-pin was introduced on credit cards, scammers went online to make transactions because it was less secure,” Trush said.

He advises Canadians traveling to ensure they only provide banking information to legitimate companies and websites.

Trush also encourages consumers to read review sites for other customer comments or complaints, research flight or accommodation prices, and look for anomalies such as extreme discounts.

“Consumers are also encouraged to be vigilant when it comes to emails that appear out of place, as phishing attacks continue to be the most frequently reported when it comes to fraudsters stealing private and personal information,” he said.

Caval Olson-Lepage, Advisory Team Lead, Wealth at Affinity Credit Union, said that whenever you receive an email or text message, you should always ask yourself, “Am I expecting this? And is that from a legitimate source?”

“I would be very careful when clicking on links in an email. I’d rather browse the legitimate website and look for that information and then click a link,” she said.

Apple would not comment on D’Agostini’s specific case, but the company’s website includes a warning about unexpected messages or requests for personal information: “It’s safer to assume a scam and contact them directly if necessary contact this company.”

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Olson-Lepage also warns against using public Wi-Fi for financial transactions, which could happen more often when someone is traveling than when they are at home or at work. She recommends setting up a virtual private network (VPN) before traveling to hide your online activities. Another option is to purchase an international data plan from your provider so you can avoid using Wi-Fi.

If you think you’ve been the victim of fraud or your information has been compromised, you should contact your financial institutions immediately, Olson-Lepage said.

Trush added that TransUnion offers customers the ability to add a potential or confirmed fraud alert to their credit file.

“This warns creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity before deciding to extend the loan and gives the creditor a contact phone number,” he said.

While D’Agostini was able to speed up their credit cards, a new RBC debit card had to be mailed. It took three months for the card to arrive, and D’Agostini said there was no follow-up.

“Things like that are stressful when you’re under pressure and you need access to money,” said D’Agostini.

She said it was also frustrating to call the bank because of the long wait times.

A spokesman for RBC said once a new card is requested, RBC will process the request and the card will be sent via Canada Post. Processing time is typically completed the following business day, however delivery is ultimately dependent on Canada Post.

D’Agostini was not held responsible for any of the fraudulent allegations.

Her advice to others is: avoid carrying multiple credit cards in your wallet at once, lest all of your accounts be blocked if your wallet is lost.

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