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Recognizing and combating fraud this tax season

Learn the signs of a scam and report suspicious messages

March 25, 2024 — 

Tax season is a heady time for fraudsters who hope to take advantage of seasonal anxiety to scam Canadians out of their money. Of course, tax season isn’t the only time scammers have their way. Two common types of fraud that often threaten organizations are phishing and business email compromise (BEC) scams. These frauds are meticulously designed to appear credible, often leaving individuals and businesses vulnerable to significant losses. 

For example, in 2017, MacEwan University lost $9.5 million to a phishing scam after staff were deceived by fraudulent messages. These emails, which claimed to originate from a legitimate client changing bank details, led to substantial financial loss for the university. 

The art of deception: Phishing and business email compromise (BEC) 

In an email phishing scam, bad actors will cleverly masquerade as trustworthy contacts, enticing or pressuring recipients into divulging sensitive information. A common tactic involves criminals posing as top executives, using a sense of urgency to goad employees into buying gift cards or transferring funds under the guise of a business requirement. 

The pressure to follow executive orders makes employees prime targets for this kind of scam. 

Signs of a scam  

Recognizing a fraudulent contact requires keen observation and a skeptical mindset. Be aware of these red flags: 

  • Unexpected requests: Any sudden pleas for money or sensitive information should immediately raise suspicion. Verify these requests directly through a known phone number before taking any action.  
  • Unverified sources: Always verify the origin of a request through known, independent contact details.  
  • Government impersonators: No genuine government official would ask for banking or personal details through unsolicited communication. You may have already received this type of attempted scam via email, text message or phone call. Read more about the different types of Government of Canada-related scams 
  • Hyperlinks and attachments: Avoid clicking links or downloading files from unknown or unverified emails. 
  • Invoice discrepancies: Inspect every invoice or purchase order to ensure all items align with actual orders and deliveries. 

Report fraud 

We urge every member of our community to scrutinize all forms of communication, question anything that looks out of the ordinary, and never hesitate to verify details independently. Your commitment to due diligence is invaluable in our collective fight against fraud.  

Always report suspected phishing emails and security incidents to the university’s Information Security and Compliance team 

Our ability to detect and deter scams not only protects our individual interests but also safeguards the integrity and prosperity of our entire university community. 


Read about the new reporting button in Outlook. 

Read a March 2024 CBC article about income tax fraud: Did you get a text with your SIN that claims to be from Canada Revenue Agency? It’s a scam 

Read about how to protect yourself from scams and fraud on the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s website 

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