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New to Canada? Protect Yourself from Common Scams


Published April 16, 2024 • 6 Min Read

If you’re new to Canada, you’re likely very excited about the future ahead! As you set out to build your life in your new country, you may be eager for job opportunities, new connections and to find housing.

While there is great opportunity ahead, there are also criminals who will be trying to take advantage of you – particularly as you’re learning how to navigate all the systems and processes in Canada.

Below, we list some common scams that target newcomers and how to protect yourself against them.

Common scams that target newcomers

Phishing/ Bank Scams

Phishing is a common online scam designed to trick you into sharing your personal or financial information with someone who is posing as a trustworthy company, such as your bank, employer, or subscription service. The scam is often carried out over email, but more and more often, cyber criminals are using text messaging to try and convince people to disclose sensitive information.

The message will typically encourage you to click on a link and share personal information. The email may also include a file you’re asked to download.  

This is an effective scam, particularly when the criminal poses as your new bank. After all, you may not know how they communicate, what information you need, and what would happen if you don’t provide the details they’re asking for. For instance, you may receive a message that asks you to send through your Social Insurance Number or enter your bank account details on a link that you’re sent. In these cases, any personal information you share will be intercepted by the scammer and may be used for the purposes of financial or identity theft.

How to protect yourself:

Never provide your confidential or financial information over the internet in response to unsolicited emails or texts. Your bank will never request information through these channels. What’s more, they will never ask for your online usernames or passwords.

You may need to provide your Social Insurance Number and contact details when you first open a bank account, but this will most likely be done in person, at a bank branch. 

If you’re not sure if the communication you received is legitimate, call your bank directly using the phone number on their website or the back of your debit or credit card, to confirm if they need anything.

Government Scams

While you get settled in Canada, there is a lot to do with the government – from getting a driver’s license and health card to setting up a tax account with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Unfortunately, these agencies are often impersonated by scammers.

One common scam is to receive a phone call from someone posing as a CRA official. In this scam, they may claim that you are being investigated for tax evasion or tax fraud and may threaten to arrest or deport you if you don’t pay them. Another variation is to receive a message saying you’re entitled to a tax refund and that you can access the amount by clicking on a link and sharing your personal information – such as a bank account to which the refund should be deposited. 

In other instances, a caller who claims to be from Service Canada may call to tell you that your Social Insurance Number has been stolen and is being used for illegal purposes. They’ll ask you to send money to “the police” to try to recover it and protect your personal data.

How to protect yourself:

When it comes to the Canada Revenue Agency, it’s important to understand how the CRA communicates.  They will only contact you through their secure messaging portal and never directly by email or text. You will never be asked to click on links to get a refund or to confirm personal information.

Also, the CRA will never use scare tactics or threatening language. While a phone call informing you that you will be “arrested” if you don’t pay immediately can be very scary, do not respond or engage in the conversation – simply hang up!

It’s also vital to never give out your SIN over the phone or in an email. Even if the caller says it has been stolen.

Employment Scams

As a newcomer, you may not be familiar with how the Canadian job market works and the recruitment processes that Canadian employers follow. Scammers know this, which makes you vulnerable to employment scams.

A fake job scam typically involves a fraudulent employment agency or recruiter who promises to get you a job in Canada for a fee. Another scam is when an “agent” will ask you to pay for training to improve your eligibility for a job in Canada. Then at the end of the training, they may ask for more money or inform you that you didn’t pass and won’t get the job.

How to protect yourself:

Be aware that recruiters are paid by employers, not potential employees. So, if any employment organization asks for payment in exchange for their services, they are not legitimate. Also beware of any organization that asks for payment up front in return for a job. 

If you receive a job offer from a company you did not apply to or interview for, it is likely a scam. 

Fake Housing Scams

Finding a new home is an important step for newcomers. As a result, there are plenty of housing scams out there targeting those who are new to Canada. A common scam is when a fraudster creates a fake listing on a website. They’ll post photos of a property that show an attractive home and include a monthly rent that is comparatively low to other similar homes. Preying on your desire for an affordable home, they will ask for a deposit once you arrive for a showing and often claim that the property cannot be seen at the moment. 

Alternatively, they may try to rush you into paying a few months’ rent by insisting that other people are also interested in renting the home. 

In reality, the property listed for rent may not even exist or does not belong to the person posing as the landlord. 

How to protect yourself:

Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, it’s best to work with a trusted real estate agent when searching for a new home. Also, be sure to never pay an upfront deposit without seeing a home in person.

Your life in Canada is filled with promise and possibilities. You don’t want a scam to get in the way of your future. The best way to protect yourself is to educate yourself about common scams, learn how to spot them, and keep an eye out for red flags that may indicate risk. Remember, if you’re not sure you should be giving out information to someone who calls or emails, stop the communication and contact the organization directly using a phone number you trust.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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