March is International Fraud Prevention Month. Thousands of Canadians are victims of fraud every year. A common misconception is that fraudsters only target the elderly, when in reality, Canadians of all ages, living in all regions, have been defrauded out of their hard earned money. Fraud can take many forms; From simple fly-by-night operations where a criminal pretends to be a business to sophisticated computer cybercrime where the goal is to get your personal information. The best defense against fraud is education and awareness.
One of the Biggest Fraud Issues Today is Identity Theft.
Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information, like your name, Social Insurance Number, or your credit or debit cards without your permission. Typically, the criminals then use your information to commit fraud or other crimes, leaving you to deal with the repercussions. Identity theft is a very serious crime. Some victims can clear their name relatively quickly. Others end up spending thousands of dollars to repair damage to their credit or their name. The stress of the situation can be unbearable and can adversely affect your health.
How Is An Identity Stolen?
Skilled thieves use a wide variety of methods to get your information. Some examples are:
- Skimming - They steal debit or credit card numbers by double swiping your card on another card reader.
- Steal - They pick your pocket and steal your wallet or your purse.
- Phishing - They pretend to be a bank and send out requests for your account information via Spam emails.
- Dumpster Diving - They rifle through your garbage looking for your bills or account information.
- Pretexting - They use false pretenses to get your private information from banks, telephone companies etc.
- Changing Your Address - They change your address and have your mail redirected elsewhere.
Simple Things You Can Do
- Guard your mail and shred all documents before throwing them out.
- Don't use easily available information as your passwords (for example, last four digits of home phone number).
- Don't give out personal information on the phone or over the Internet until you've confirmed the source.
- Don't carry your SIN card around. Leave it in a secure place.
- Make sure you have the most current debit and credit cards available. Chip Cards are proven to reduce fraud.
- Keep all paperwork with personal information in a safe place.
And most importantly, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!
Think You're A victim of Identity theft?
If you suspect you are a victim of fraud or identity theft contact PhoneBusters, The Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre, either by going to their website, and completing their Identity Theft Statement, or by calling their toll free number at 888-465-8501.
At the PhoneBusters web site they have a lot more information on Identity Theft as well as a detailed list of scams and other fraudulent activities to be aware of.
The Competition Bureau of Canada as a lot of great information about Fraud and Fraud prevention. You can find them here.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have a ton of information at their website here including Debit and Credit Card Fraud, Investment and Securities Fraud and many others.
What Can Insurance Do to Help?
Many insurance companies have Identity Theft Endorsements available on their tenant, condo or homeowner insurance policies. Check to make sure you have an Identity Theft Endorsement on your property policy.
The amount of coverage can vary depending on the company, but they all cover expenses associated with the restoration of your identity resulting from the wrongful use of identifying information for the purpose of fraud or other criminal activity. Court costs, lawyer fees, missed work can have a huge impact on your financial reserves!
Awareness is an effective weapon against Identity Theft. Be aware of how your information could be stolen and how you can guard it. Monitor your information to uncover problems quickly and know what to do when you think your identity is being stolen.
If you have any questions or concerns call Erb and Erb Insurance Brokers Ltd. or contact us here or leave a comment below. We'd love to discuss with you how you can guard your family's assets!
Thanks for reading.