It is no surprise that with Facebook, online shopping, internet bill payments, and direct billing, it is growing more and more complicated to keep yourself safe from fraud. With so much of our life being conducted online, many people are left wondering what types of scams they should look out for.
New fraud scams emerge every day, but the fraudsters are using the same old tricks but in new ways. Here are some common tricks you can be alert to so that you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of.
You won a big prize but you have to pay the taxes, or port fees, or shipping costs. In Canada, you do not have to pay taxes or fees on prizes. Never give your credit card information over the phone to collect a prize. The adage still holds: If it seems too good to be true, it is!
Your credit card company leaves you a voicemail to call them back about unusual activity on your card. Do not call them back on the number the provide-- it will just be redirected to the fraudster who will have set up automated 'for English press one' messages to make it sound real. Instead, call the telephone number printed on the back of your credit card and advise them about the call you received.
You get an email from your bank with a 'click here' button to confirm your identity. This is called a Phish-- bait that looks real but has a hook! Identity theft can be devastating on your finances-- your bank or credit card company would never ask you to click a link or give personal information in this manner.
You get an email advertisement with an 'unsubscribe' link or give personal information to cancel the unwanted advertisement. Instead, set the email to go to your junk email folder or block the sender.
You see a product online with a very low sample price, 'as seen on Dragon's Den' or 'just pay the shipping'. Read the fine print: this is a limited-time trial and you will be charged the full price for the product in 21 days. You will also be signed up for monthly shipments automatically charged to your credit card at the full price. These can be difficult to cancel. Beware: good deals are usually expensive traps.
You are online and an advertisement invites you to 'click here'. Clicking unknown advertisement links can be hazardous to the health of your computer and your online security. It could also be a phishing trap to get your personal information. When online shopping, there are two simple signs that you're secure. One is the "Padlock" icon located at the top of your browser window, and the other is "https" in the address bar. These confirm that the page you are on is secure and that your data will be encrypted. If you do not see those, do not provide any financial or personal information.
You receive a telephone call or voicemail from the Canada Revenue Agency, CRA, or Tax Canada. It is aggressive and threatening and they demand payment or they will send police or take money from your bank account. The police do not collect unpaid taxes and Canada Revenue Agency does not call you to demand payment. Hang up immediately and report the call to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center (CAFC) 1-888-495-8501 or the non-emergency RCMP line.
A young, friendly person with a clipboard comes to your door offering you a 'free estimate' for a service you did not ask for like a security system or appliance repair. Never let these people into your home, particularly if they act aggressively, high pressure, or give you a limited time offer. Just ask them to leave their information and call the company directly if you want that product or service.
You receive a call asking for remote access to your computer to update your version of Windows or make your internet faster. This is always a trick-- no one needs to remotely access your computer to do anything legitimate. They are up to no good!
You see an advertisement that looks like a regular Facebook post talking about a miracle cure, weight loss program, or online pharmacy. These are paid advertisements meant to look like legitimate posts your friends or family may have 'liked'. The 'Dr. Oz fat melting away' ad is the most recent and has cost Canadians time and money in unwanted spam, unsafe products, and hard to cancel subscriptions.
If you are in doubt, it is wise to ask the advice of a close friend or relative or a professional you see regularly like your banker, accountant, or lawyer. Rely on people you can trust.
As a final note-- Passwords Matter! Do not use repeat passwords, especially for bank accounts. Fraudsters can run an email password against financial institutions in case there is a repeat that will grant them access. They will also gain information from social media sites for common passwords such as your best friend's name, mom's maiden name, your first pet, or the town you grew up in. Fraudsters look for credit card information, bank account details, full name and signature, date of birth, social insurance number, full address, online usernames and passwords, driver's license number, and passport number. Keep this information secure!