Identity theft concerns you

Be aggressive in protecting yourself against fraud

By Peter Boys CAFA

The Financial Coach

Canadians are becoming more concerned about identity theft according to a recent annual fraud survey commissioned by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada). And rightfully so.

Respondents also fear that Canadian businesses are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks regarding their personal data. Today Canadians are living more of their lives online and companies face significant challenges associated with gathering, managing and protecting information. Thieves will hack into a variety of computer systems from banks to retail chains in order to steal credit card, personal and bank information.

Constant threat of fraud

In times past, the biggest threat that people worried about was having their purse or wallet stolen. Electronic payment methods, like tapping credit and debit cards, on-line purchases and using smart phones does help facilitate the rise in fraud. Fraud comes in many different forms from credit card theft, mail theft, mortgage fraud, skimming to hacking. In today’s ever-evolving economy, change is rapid, and the threat of fraud is constant. Canadians are strongly encouraged to be aggressive in protecting themselves against fraud.

Prevention

Use secure websites and make sure that the URL start with “https”. Use reputable payment processors and check your bank or credit card statements regularly for discrepancies. Shred all personal documents before throwing away. Create usernames and passwords that are difficult to guess. Be extremely cautious about what information you share online. Can someone guess your passwords by the information you share on-line? People are creatures of habit and fraudsters know this. Do not open e-mails that are from an unknown source. Fraudsters are always looking for personal data. Do a google search of yourself to see what comes up and how much information you are sharing with the world. We are our own best gatekeepers when it comes to protecting our personal information.

Phishing schemes are the most common type of identity theft schemes. The thief tricks you into giving up your personal identifying information. This can occur through cell phone messages, social networks, e-mails, text messages and standard mail. Do not give out any personal information to anyone you do not know. The fraudsters can be very convincing and even threatening at times to get you to give up information. Do not be afraid to hang up on someone and call the company back through the phone numbers you have. CRA and your bank will not request personal information from you through e-mail or phone. Your credit card company will already have your card information.

Consider using a financial tracking software program

I have used one for years as I can instantly see any charges that I might dispute, I can download bank and credit card statement data and instantly reconcile it. As well, I track all my investments, what I’m spending and what I’m spending it on. This not only helps me look for discrepancies but helps me to budget and develop an accurate net worth statement.

Investment fraud

It is easy to get sucked into investment schemes. Offers of “guaranteed” returns of 14 to 25 per cent with “no risk” are enticing. Investors should always be skeptical of anyone offering a risk-free investment with an unusually high return. I encourage investors to look very carefully at every investment you make, but also to listen to your gut. If something doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t feel right, contact the Alberta Securities Commission.

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