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Scam-based escape room seeks to educate Canadians on fraud

The prevalence of scams targeting Canadians is surging, and comes in various forms such as phone calls, text messages, and emails.

Recognizing the growing threat, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is taking a new approach to raise awareness and educate individuals with the knowledge to steer clear of scams, using a unique and interactive escape room.

Patricia Doyle and her husband, Danny Boyle, have been scammed in the past, an experience they describe as unsettling. Now, they are testing themselves in the ‘Be Smart Scam Escape Room’ at the St. Laurent Shopping Centre.

In the middle of the mall, inside a distinctive green and yellow cube, there are three rooms, where participants encounter a series of challenges simulating real-world scam scenarios amid the distractions of daily life.

Navigating through the rooms, participants must decide if they are being duped by criminals who use many different deceptive tactics.

The interactive experience takes less then ten minutes and participants receive a score at the end, reflecting their ability to uncover fraudulent activities.

“We got 60 per cent, which apparently is not bad,” says Boyle. “I didn’t get it right a couple of times. There were challenges and it was fun too.”

“I know a lot of people who have been scammed,” says Doyle. “Especially when [fraudsters] change the wording around and things like that. This is really helpful.”

Designed by the Canada Revenue Agency, the goal of the escape room is educate Canadians about scams and how to protect themselves. 

“We’re trying to tell people, let’s try to figure out if you can decide what’s an actual message that you should respond to or not. Whether you’re a senior, you’re a newcomer, a youth, results vary so it’s based on your knowledge. What we’re hoping is that people will learn things and be more smart, be more vigilant going forward and not get scammed,” says, Charles Drouin, a CRA spokesperson. “Thousands and thousands of Canadians are getting scammed each year that we’ve seen in the numbers. Less of it last year, but there are more and more scams coming through, so the likelihood that you will fall into one is really there. This is why we’re here today, telling people, okay, it could be an email, could be a text message or something else.”

The surge in reported scam incidents in Canada underscores the urgency of proactive measures. According to the CRA, between 2019 and 2023, the reported losses to fraud have skyrocketed, reaching nearly half a billion dollars. Initiatives like the Be Smart Scam Escape Room serve as crucial educational tools in combating this alarming trend.

Later next month, the Be Smart Scam Escape Room will travel to Montreal, followed by Halifax, where is will make its way back across Canada, through the GTA, and to Vancouver. 

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