Identity theft is one of the most common crimes committed in Canada. In the United States, someone becomes a victim of identity theft every two seconds. Your personal information is everywhere, including in the hands of every company you interact with financially. It is also sitting in the mailbox outside your door, and in the garbage can in the form of unshredded bills, notes, lists, and any other identifying discarded item. What you or your friends share on social media can give a criminal access to everything about you.
Stolen identities can be sold on the black market, leaving the victims dealing with not only financial theft, but the potential of a reputation so damaged it costs them a job opportunity, business or personal financing, etc. These fraudsters can create loans and charge accounts under the victims name, file fake income tax returns, sell their investments, and cause a great deal of stress that can last for years. Identity theft is so prevalent and so costly, insurance companies usually only cover a small amount of it unless you purchase additional coverage.
Your passwords and email addresses are the keys to your identity and need to be protected in the same way you would guard a key to a safety deposit box. Your personal information is free for the taking anywhere you give out your phone number or email – stores don’t need this information, so don’t give it to them. The entire financial system is about to experience a massive technology disruption with the arrival of blockchain-based digital currencies, mobile wallets, new payment platforms, and other innovation in fintech. It is now more important than ever to take online security seriously.
March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada and to raise awareness the Competition Bureau has published “The Little Black Book of Scams”, which includes the following:
- Never provide your personal information over the phone, via text message, email or the internet.
- Avoid public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots, such as in coffee shops, to access or provide personal information; they put you at risk.
- Create strong and unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Password-protect your devices and home Wi-Fi network.
- Use a secure and reputable payment service when buying online—look for a URL starting with “https” and a closed padlock symbol.
- Avoid giving out personal information on social media. It can be used along with your pictures to commit fraud.
- Always shield your PIN when using your card. If you hand it over to a cashier, never lose sight of it.
- Shred and destroy documents with personal information.