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Identity Theft In Canada – How To Stop Cybercrime & Credit Card Fraud

This year’s Canada Financial Literacy Month campaign theme focuses on Managing Your Money in a Changing World.  Cybercrime continues to be a threat for our ever changing world and this article focuses on how to stop credit card fraud and cybercrime. 

Crimes like identity theft, credit card fraud, and bank fraud can ruin you financially. Sometimes it can take weeks or months to realize you have been victimized. Recovering from cybercrime can take even longer. The good news is there are measures you can take to protect your identity and your finances from fraud. In the article, we’ll look at ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Cybercrime and Fraud

Understanding cybercrime, identity theft, and fraud are essential to safeguard your financial well-being. These crimes are increasing in Canada, so protecting yourself against online fraud is necessary. In 2022, there were 19,500 cases of identity theft. Canadian individuals and businesses lost an estimated $530 million to fraud. Authorities consider the actual amount much higher because they believe only 5-10% of victims report the crime to law enforcement.

Cybercrime occurs when fraudsters use the Internet or computers to commit crimes. Typically, the outcome of cybercrime is fraud. 

It may take a long time to realize your accounts or identity have been compromised. Knowing how to safeguard your information is crucial to keep your identity and finances safe.

Types of Cybercrime

There is a long list of ways you can be a target. As technology advances, the methods used get more sophisticated. A few of the most common types of cybercrime to watch out for are:

Mass marketing fraud:

Mass marketing fraud defrauds victims through the Internet, email, telephone, and mail. You may get messages about a relative in desperate need or that your bank account will be frozen if you don’t respond to the message. Another tactic is to say that your subscription to a streaming service will be cancelled. The emails and web pages often look identical to the company they pretend to be. People will sometimes believe they are legitimate.

Identity theft:

Identity theft results from someone stealing your identification to impersonate you. An identity thief may do this for various reasons. Fraudsters use your information to obtain credit, open bank accounts, or steal the money in your accounts by pretending to be you.

Phishing, smishing, and vishing:

Phishing is when you receive an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate company, such as your bank. There is typically a link for you to click. The link takes you to a website identical to the business but is fraudulent. 

Once on the website,  you’re asked to enter personal information like your credit card or Social Insurance Number. They capture your information and use it later to defraud you. SMIshing is using text messages to accomplish similar things as phishing. Vishing seeks to steal your information using voice technology.

Deep fakes/AI:

Fraudsters can use artificial intelligence (AI) to create deep fakes. Deep fakes are computer manipulations of images, videos or voices to make it look like someone you know is asking you for help or money. Cybercriminals may use a deep fake to call you with a voice that sounds like a relative who’s in trouble and needs money. They may also use an image to try the same thing.

Scams:

Scams involve another party trying to win your trust so you will send them information or money. They may be romance scams, investment scams, employment scams, or telemarketing scams.

Romance scammers often ask for money after spending time building a romantic relationship with you online. They will tell you they need money for urgent concerns.

Investment scams sometimes begin with someone pretending to be a friend after finding or texting you online. Once they have your trust, they will ask you to send them money they can invest on your behalf to make you rich. The money disappears, and the scammers often follow up with additional requests for money.

Employment scams often start with someone posing as an employer contacting you. The fake employer may send a job offer which is also fake. The offer states you must send your banking information so they can pay you. Once the scammer has your bank information, they can access your accounts.

Telemarketing scams involve fraudsters calling you pretending to be a reputable business or agency. Some common examples are they say they’re:

  •  A registered charity.
  •  An investment firm.
  •  The police.
  •  The Canada Revenue Agency. 

They will try to get a donation or funds from you by using your credit card or taking the money from your bank account. Once they have this information, they may access your bank or credit card.

How to stop identity theft and cybercrime

Protecting your information is vital because failing to do so can severely impact your life, sometimes for years. If thieves steal your data, they can use it to commit identity fraud, credit card fraud, bank fraud, drain your bank accounts and ruin you financially. 

These crimes can ruin your credit score and force you to file for Bankruptcy. Using fraud protection measures is vital to keep yourself safe.

So, how can you protect yourself? Here are 12 things you can do to keep your information safe.

  1. Only give information over the phone or the Internet if you have initiated the contact. Calling a business or going directly to its website can ensure you are talking to the right person. One common phishing scam is fraudsters posing as your bank by sending text messages, emails or leaving voicemails. Use the bank’s phone number on your card or their website to call your bank, not the number on your voicemail or call display.
  2. Put all your personal and financial information in a safe place if you have people coming to your home. Ensure your investment statements, bank statements, credit cards, and personal details are not accessible.
  3. Do not share your Social Insurance Number. If a service provider asks for it, find out why they need it and if you can refuse to share it. Don’t carry your Social Insurance Number with you or leave it where others can access it.
  4. Don’t respond to urgent requests. If it’s a charity, you can ask them to mail you information or call them back to see if they’re fundraising. If it’s someone you know, contact them directly to see if they need your help.
  5. Shred all your documents that contain personal information, including approved credit card offers. Thieves may go through your garbage to get your personal information.
  6. Keep your passwords safe and change them frequently. Don’t carry them with you or use things that are easy to guess. It’s easy for cybercriminals to get information commonly used for passwords like your birthdate or pet’s name from your social media accounts.
  7. Limit the information you share online and keep your privacy settings secure and up to date.
  8. Sign up for credit protection and monitoring with a credit bureau like Equifax or Transunion. These services allow you to check your credit report regularly for suspicious activity. They also alert you to items like new accounts or late payments on your credit report.
  9. Check your homeowner’s insurance policy for identity theft protection. Many policies offer this feature. If your policy doesn’t have it, find out if you can add it as a rider.
  10. Install security systems on all your devices, including your phone.
  11. Be careful when using public Wi-Fi. Hackers may be able to access your information. 
  12. Change your passwords frequently. Don’t use the same password for everything.

Where to Get Help

Being a victim of online fraud or a scam can wipe out your savings and leave you deeply in debt. Reporting these crimes can help bring criminals to justice, but you may not get your money back. We can help you get your finances back on track. 

Our Licensed Insolvency Trustees (LITs) at Allan Marshall & Associates have solutions if you need debt help. We will work with you to find the best options to deal with your debt. Don’t hesitate to contact us today at 1-888-371-8900 for a free consultation to get rid of your debt and get back on the right path to financial wellness.

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David Macdonald

As a Licensed Insolvency Trustee I help people and small business owners resolve their financial problems. I’ve practiced exclusively in both consumer and corporate insolvency, litigation support and forensic accounting since 2003 in British Columbia, Alberta and the Maritime provinces.