Text, Email and Phone Phishing
If I was playing some sort of financial scam bingo, I would surely be a winner. In the past three days, I've received phishing scam attempts through three different communication channels: text message, email and phone call. Two days ago I got a text message from the "Bank of Nova Scotia" alerting me to the fact that they had noticed unusual activity on my account. They suggested that I should go to a website to "verify my identity". In other words, they wanted me to give them my personal information (I don't have an account at Scotiabank). I recently learned that these types of text message scams are called "smishing" (short for "SMS phishing").
Yesterday I received an email from "RBC Royal Bank" letting me know that, "You have been locked out of your account!" Again, to unlock my account, I would have to visit a website and enter some personal information (I don't have an account at this bank either). Usually, these emails are blocked by my email providers spam blocker, but for some reason, this one sneaked through. This morning at 6:30 am, as I was getting my toddler dressed and ready for breakfast, I go a phone call. The caller, from an international phone number, greeted me by name and said his name was "Francis" and that he worked for the Visa Security Department. He wanted to alert me that someone had purchased a Western Union money transfer with my credit card and asked me to confirm the purchase. I told "Francis" that I would call Visa directly and hung up the phone. This early morning phone call credit card phishing scam has been around for a while, but this is the first time I got a call like this.
Financial Literacy Education
This recent surge in phishing scam attempts has highlighted the importance to me of teaching financial literacy to our students. High school students are at an age where they will soon be experiencing financial independence and need to make important decisions about budgeting, making purchases, investing and assuming debt such as student loans and credit cards. They will also have to learn how to protect themselves from fraud. The Nova Scotia high school mathematics curriculum contains a number of financial mathematics outcomes. These outcomes vary depending upon which mathematics courses a student takes. These outcomes deal with personal budgets, understanding pay and income, borrowing money, investing money and making purchases.
Avoiding fraud and scams is not explicitly covered in any of these outcomes but could easily be included when teaching these topics. For example, when learning about banking services and credit cards, students could be taught how to recognize scams and what to do if they realize that they've been the victim of identity theft. They could also be taught how to keep their financial information secure and how they should and should not communicate with their bank and other financial institutions.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre maintains a list of fraud types and how to identify and report fraud. It is a very worthwhile website to check out: http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/
Nova Scotia High School Mathematics Curriculum Outcomes relating to Finance
Mathematics 10 - FM01, FM02, FM03, FM04
Math at Work 10 - N01, N02
Math Essentials 10 - Earning and Purchasing, Banking
Math at Work 11 - N02, N03, N04, N05, A01
Math Essentials 11 - Housing, Banking
Mathematics 12 - FM01, FM02, FM03
Math at Work 12 - N02, N03