March is Fraud Prevention Month, and it’s a good time to focus on making sure you're taking the steps to protect yourself against criminals who would love to get their hands on your personal information. Being prevalent about your security can protect you from fraudulent activity like I.D. theft or financial fraud.
Fraud can occur with your bank account, your social insurance number, a job offer, even your home title, just to name a few. Scams come in the form of pyramid schemes, phone calls, contest winnings, false charities, even phony inheritances! Fraud-related offences are now thought to be as profitable as drug-related offences, estimated at between $10 and $30 billion annually in Canada by the RCMP’s Commercial Crime Branch. Don’t be a victim. Always be aware of how your private details are being used and who might have access to it. Here are a few tips to keep you safe from fraudsters.
Shred All Sensitive Documents
If you get any mail with your personal information on it, shred it before you trash it. This means anything that has your name and address on it, any document with your date of birth, any account information or social insurance number. If there is information on the document that is individual to you, don’t let it leave the house without it being destroyed.
Never Let Mail Pile Up
A stack of letters in a mailbox is a beacon calling fraudsters to steal your personal information. A full mailbox usually means no one is home and the mail will be easy to steal. Also, a large stack of letters ensures the availability of lots of different types of information that fraudsters can work with. If you’re going on holiday have someone pick up you mail to keep the crooks away or have your mailed stopped while you're are gone.
Frequently Change the PIN On Your Financial Cards
There’s no doubt that we all have a lot of PIN codes to remember, from our library card, to our bank card to our air miles points - everything these days requires a login and a password! The most sensitive information is on your financial cards, such as your credit cards and bank cards. Change the code on these cards often - at least once every three months - and make sure you don’t use the same PIN code for your library card as you do for you for online banking. Keep your PIN secret and never tell anyone what it is.
Never Give Personal Information to Someone Who Contacted You
If they called you, don’t trust that your personal information is safe to give over the phone. Ask to call them back so you can check out the number they are calling from. Regardless of what the phone call is regarding, if the operator is asking for information that doesn’t make sense, don’t give it away. Exercise common sense when revealing you personal information over the phone.
Decline the “Remember Me” Option for Financial Card Numbers
It’s tempting to save all your logins and passwords onto your personal computer. While it may save time, though, resist the temptation to do so. If you were to ever leave your computer somewhere, or if it was stolen all your financial information would be at jeopardy. This also goes for your smart phone and tablet. If you have apps for any financial institution, make sure you log out each time you’re done using them.
Beware of Unusual Activity
All year round you should be aware of all transactions that are put through your accounts. But once a year it’s a good idea to get a credit report from TransUnion or Equifax to check your credit score. This will give you a full report of how your credit has been used over the last year and immediately point out to you if its been used fraudulently. The report is free once a year and has no affect on your credit rating.
Be Vigilant Year Round
While the month of March prompts us to pay close attention to our personal information, it's smart to be vigilant all year round. Don’t leave your personal information lying around your desk at work. Protect your pin with your hand when entering it at the ABM and don’t keep credit cards you don’t need. It's hard to monitor the activity on a card if you rarely use it. Call and cancel any card you're not using regularly.
Remember if you suspect your information has been compromised contact the authorities at the bank immediately. You can also call the RCMP or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to report the incident.