Anytime you put yourself out there in the digital world, you are a potential target for fraud. If you operate a business or website, have a social media or dating profile, list your contact information on a Kijiji ad and so on, fraudsters can use the information you’ve supplied to customize scams targeted at you and, in the worst cases, create a fake identity.
Scams cost Canadians more than $100 million every year, according to the Better Business Bureau. They are getting more sophisticated and convincing with sleek digital interfaces, impeccable use of language (and psychology) and by having just enough information about you that it feels legitimate. These days, even legitimate institutions can get hacked and your personal, highly protected, information can be stolen. You need to be more vigilant than ever to protect yourself and your finances.
Limit what you share
Private information such as your full name, phone number, address, email and SIN should be kept to yourself. Until trust is established through a formal engagement process, such as creating a robust online banking profile with your financial institution right there in the branch, absolutely no personal information should ever be revealed.
Legitimate organizations will never ask you to share your private information through email, by text, phone or mail. Instead, they will notify you to log into your secure account and update your details on their protected site. Alternatively, they will have you visit a physical location and have you present proof of your identity, before discussing any confidential details of your accounts.
If you have a business, you need to provide contact information for customers, but this shouldn’t be your private information. You need to separate it.
Change your passwords often
Gone are the days of 1-2-3-4-5-6 passwords. Passwords need to be rock-solid and according to cybersecurity experts, changing your passwords monthly is the single best way to avoid getting scammed. Specifically, mix in a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Avoid saving your passwords anywhere unless it’s with a secure encryption program and avoid using common phrases or words closely associated to you. Last, use a two-factor identification process such as a password plus a security question or a password plus a secure code texted to your mobile device.
Don’t sit back if you’re a victim of a data breach
Canadians have fallen victim to massive data breaches, with some of the largest being Equifax, Capital One and Desjardins Group. SIN are one of the primary pieces of data collected by these hackers because with your SIN plus your name, fraudulent identities and requests for credit can be made.
Major corporations will typically mail you a letter to let you know about the breach, and what they plan to do about it. But it’s up to you to stay alert and monitor your financial accounts and credit file.
If you think you’ve been affected, check your online banking and credit file every day or two, and report any suspicious activity to both the institution where your account is located as well as the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Next, you can ask the credit bureaus to lock and put an alert on your file. This should prevent fraudulent inquiries for credit. You’ll need to lift that lock if you actually need a credit check to be performed.
Monitoring your credit report and financial accounts is simply a good financial habit all of the time. So add it to your regular routine.
Get more business in your inbox
Get the business news and analysis that matters most every morning in our Star Business Journal newsletter.
Sign Up Now