How to protect yourself online
This year marks another year for the annual education and awareness campaign that is Fraud Prevention Month. Kudos to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre for this annual campaign. #FPM2017
Really though, in my opinion, every day of every month is fraud prevention month.
Question the scummy scammer techniques
Criminals are sneaky. They will go to great lengths to misrepresent, falsify, or steal information. They want you to reveal your personal information or pay for items that are non-existent. The first rule of fraud is: be wary of fraudsters. Unfortunately they are everywhere.
Check out this recent example below sent to me, a text I found rather suspect:
- Why would Bell send me a reward via text?
- What is Bell Communications Partnerships?
- Why would they send me a text at 3:05 am?
- Why would they send me an Interact E-Transfer Refund?
- Why would they include a link to click, a call to action?
- What is this 418 area code anyhow? Does it even match the company that sent it?
- I could go on….and I’m still looking for an answer from Bell anyhow….
No thanks. Those are too many questions already for me.
Top prevention tips
Here are some of my top fraud prevention tips for any day of the month, things I try and avoid and practice.
- Don’t be lured into the promise of a prize. This includes rewards or refunds via telephone, email, text or online. If you see a link from Bell or any other company – question it – directly to the company. Almost every major business in Canada has an email address to confirm if the content was sent from them or not. In this case I emailed firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Don’t disclose any personal information about your finances. This includes bank account numbers, credit card numbers, social insurance numbers and indirect information attached to your accounts such as a driver’s license number – to any business that can’t prove it is legitimate. If you cannot prove who you are talking to or writing to, stop. Stop ASAP. Don’t be afraid to hang up the phone either. Don’t be afraid to delete the email. Don’t be afraid to request more details so you can verify contact information.
- Shred and delete whenever in doubt. After you have completed your transactions, when in doubt, shred and/or delete contact information. Even long after you have completed transactions with trusty companies, shred and delete personal information such as bank statements, credit card bills, unwanted receipts, cheques, pre-approved credit applications and old tax returns (after seven years).
- Report it! Like a bully in the schoolyard you need to take away the criminals leverage. Scammers and fraudsters are depending on you to respond. If you don’t act, you don’t click, you don’t respond they are largely powerless. Even better, reporting these events are vital to anti-fraud efforts of companies and law enforcement agencies. Report as much as you can and as often as you can. Every effort you make helps pay it forward so someone else may not fall victim. I’m doing my part with this blogpost today. Please share it, tweet it and like it with others.
Smart online usage means taking some steps to avoid falling victim to criminals. I hope you can use my own case study to be wary yourself.
What anti-fraud tips do you have to share with others? Any case study you’d like to share or report? Happy to pay it forever to help others – Mark
I was at my Dad’s when he got a call, I could tell he looked puzzled by whatever it was they were saying to him. I asked him for the phone… “Yes, this is Microsoft Technical Support, we have discovered a horrible virus on your computer and we can fix it before it spreads for $100”. Well, Dad doesn’t even own a computer, so I thought I’d play along. I told the scammer “please call me back on this number (gave him my cell number….) in two minutes as I need to go to the room where the computer is and there is no phone in that room. Two minutes later, my cell rings and I answered… “Metro Police Department, Detective Davis speaking, how can I help you?” <>
Nicely played. Sigh. Scammers. Everywhere. Can’t be too vigilant.
I volunteer with CVITP – a CRA program which prepares taxes for low-income Canadians for no cost (about 50% of the clients are either newcomers or seniors). As I enter the information into the U-File program, one of the questions asks for a home and work phone number. As they give me the numbers, I always tell the client that CRA will only initially contact them by mail – never by phone or by email. If they receive a call, I tell them to not say anything and hang up, and if by email, delete it immediately. I explain that fraudsters are pretending to be CRA employees and will tell them that the police will arrest them if they do not pay money. I feel it is very important to explain this so that, not only are they not taken in by the scam, but I also ask them to tell their friends and family. Surprisingly, the average client thinks they may be called because they give their phone number when preparing taxes.
Great of you to volunteer Denise. Smart of you to also disclose how you will contact them. I can appreciate many low-income taxpayers might be very vulnerable to fraud.
Martin, I love your comments (especially the last two paragraphs – yes, we will be in the same situation when we get older)! Very insightful.
Thanks for reading Ed.
Thanks Ed ?
Quite honestly, why would anyone or any company be trying to give away free stuff to you? The answer is, that they’re not. I lose count of the number of emails I receive telling me I’ve won a prize, gained an inheritance (I can’t believe these ones are still going around) or that my ‘account’ has been frozen.
My recommendation. Just delete. Don’t click any of the links, including the UNSUBSCRIBE, as you have no idea what impact they may have.
Here’s something else to consider. For those of us who are technology savvy it’s easy to laugh at the obviousness of some of these attempts to coerce us into what are more than likely, frauds of some sort. We may shake our heads and believe that the only suckers these fraudsters get are older and naive. But remember, many of these older people were once our age and were probably pretty up with the play in their day.
We’ll be old too one day and no doubt, the technology will have advanced to the point that it could be us they are taking advantage of.
Great to hear from you Martin.
Yeah, good advice: when in doubt just delete. *click* 🙂
Another timely topic. Whether you know it or not, your accounts are constantly being probed. My two bits worth of advice is:
1. STOP, DO NOTHING. What I mean is, that if you are tempted to click, stop and think. What will happen if I don’t click to: a) claim my prize, b) collect monies owed to me by ScamBusters, c) release my Amazon order from customs etc etc etc. ( did I actually order anything from Amazon?)
2. KNOW YOURSELF. Do I really have a rich aunt in Nigeria? I think not. Just today I received an email telling me to reset my Instagram password. Hmm I don’t have an Instagram account. As RBull said, a message from Scotia Bank when you are not a customer. The alarm bells should be deafening
Two messages I get with some regularity are ” Your PayPal acct has been frozen” and ” You recently made a request to reset your Apple ID” While I use both services, if I wanted to do something about these ( And I Don’t) I log into my accounts from my bookmarks sites, never ever by clicking on links in emails
When they are obvious scams, I take a screen grab of the email, look up the security section of the Company or Organization involved and send them a copy.
Ugh…I hate the Apple ID emails. Very annoying.
I don’t get many PayPal ones and I always flag them to PayPal every time I get one.
Thanks for your comment and sharing.
Yes, kudos indeed. Good to see this post and your example of what to watch out for. The only fraudulent text I received was a Scotia bank link (and I’m not a customer).
Protecting personal financial information and being informed about various methods of fraud and prevention is becoming increasingly important. Lol, fraudsters have advanced beyond the young Nigerian prince chain emails, some of which were actually rather entertaining.
Ah yes, the famous Nigerian prince tactic. They need to get more creative. 🙂
Most people think it won’t happen to them, and knock on wood that it never does. I just hit my head several times.
Received similar emails and lots of phone calls. Ignore all.