Digital fraudsters show no signs of slowing down their phishing activity in 2020 as cyber attacks proliferate amid the widespread shift to work-from-home and as Canadians spend more time and money online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) partnered with Optimity and surveyed 7,800 Canadians and discovered that while 82 per cent of respondents are confident in their ability to detect a phishing attempt, only 31 per cent were able to correctly identify all the red flags of a phishing scam in an online quiz.

Many think phishing scams are easy to spot

About 57 per cent of the survey sample incorrectly thinks phishing emails are easy to spot due to spelling errors, indicating a general lack of understanding of the increasing sophistication of phishing attacks.

In recognition of Financial Literacy Month in November, the results provide a glimpse into Canadians' understanding of how to detect and prevent digital fraud, a key part of achieving overall financial well-being.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadians have lost more than $40 million to online scams so far in 2020 and phishing continues to be used in the majority of cases. 

"Banks go to great lengths to keep Canadians' money safe and protect their personal and financial information, but the realities of a connected world mean that cyber threats are not limited to our systems and technology," says Neil Parmenter, president and CEO of the CBA.

Banking sector has role to play

"In the digital era, security is a shared responsibility and Canadians have a role to play. To that end, the banking sector is committed to promoting cyber security best practices to help customers better protect themselves and their devices against a rising tide of digital fraud."

Despite a growing recognition of the importance of unique passwords, a large number (63 per cent) of respondents could not identify all examples of weak passwords, suggesting a need to learn more about what constitutes a strong password. Another vulnerability is effective password management – more than 80 per cent of users are unable to remember each password, saying this is the biggest barrier to maintaining unique passwords.