From cloud storage and 5G connection speeds to chatbots and augmented reality, new developments in internet technology have made life a lot more convenient for many Canadians. However, the same technology has also enabled criminals to create ever more sophisticated ways to steal your information to use in scams and fraud. This article by the Home Trust blog shows you how you can protect yourself from Fraud.
In fact, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported that over $530 million was lost to acts of fraud in 2022 – a substantial 39% increase from the $380 million lost in 2021. Because of this financial impact, it pays to take some personal precautions to defend yourself against scams and fraud.
With this in mind, we look at five ways you can protect yourself from fraud.
1. Be vigilant with your personal information.
Your personal information – including your full name, age, address, date of birth, account numbers and Social Insurance Number – is a potential gold mine for fraudsters, who can use it to open bank accounts, apply for loans or access your savings. For this reason, many scams are designed to get as much personal information from you as possible.
So, the first step to protecting yourself from fraud is adopting a privacy-first mindset and being careful with whom you share your personal information. A good approach is asking yourself these questions outlined by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) before giving your personal information to anyone:
- How will your information be used?
- Why is it needed?
- Who will be sharing it?
- How will it be safeguarded?
- Are there any risks of harm or other consequences?
The OPC also advises to never give your personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. It’s also a good idea to refrain from doing anything that might reveal your personal information – such as online banking or shopping – in a public setting where fraudsters could be lurking, such as a coffee shop, park or library.
2. Verify links and attachments in emails before clicking on them.
As more of our transactions move online, phishing emails – or emails pretending to come from legitimate sources such as banks, online stores, utilities or government organizations – have become an increasingly common tactic that thieves use to get your personal information. In fact, they’re so common that the federal government estimates that one in every 99 emails are phishing emails.
These types of emails rely on you clicking on a link that will either take you to a legitimate-looking site to input sensitive information or download malware that will give fraudsters access to your files. Because of this, it’s important to verify links and attachments in emails before clicking on them, even if the email looks like it came from a legitimate sender. According to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, one way you can do this include hovering your mouse cursor over the link “to see if the info (sender/website address) matches what you expect.”
3. Be careful when sharing images online.
The photos you share in chat applications and social media can potentially give fraudsters clues about your day-to-day life that they can use in a variety of social engineering scams – and a determined thief can use even seemingly innocent photos to steal your data. For instance, if fraudsters see photos on social media of you working out at a local gym, they may send an email disguised as a promotion from that gym as a way to collect your credit card information.
In this light, think about being more prudent about the images you share online. A good tactic provided by the federal government is to ask yourself these questions before sharing anything:
- Who will see this post?
- Is there anything in this post that gives away sensitive information?
- Why does this information need to be shared?
4. Monitor your purchase transactions.
Keeping an eye out for suspicious purchase transactions in your bank and credit card statements will allow you to flag fraudulent activity quickly to lock thieves out of your account. And as an extra layer of protection, many credit cards – including those offered by Home Trust – offer real-time fraud alert services that ask you to authenticate transactions that may be fraudulent.
5. Act with urgency if your information has been exposed.
If you feel that your personal information could be exposed – if you lose your credit card, for instance – it’s crucial that you notify all relevant organizations as quickly as possible to prevent thieves from using that information.