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Scammers employ new tactics to steal your identity

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Barry Choi

April 30, 2020
Saving strategies
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Fraudsters are incredibly smart these days. They continuously come up with different schemes targeting people via online sites, email, text messages and phone calls. It doesn’t matter how old you are, your gender, or where you live, fraudsters are trying their hardest to get your information and cash.

Fraudsters also don’t take time off even in the midst of a crisis. In fact, the government has recently issued a warning about a series of new scams attempting to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting individuals. The best way to protect yourself is to know the most common types of fraud so you can hopefully prevent yourself from being a victim.

Identity theft

Many people assume that thieves are looking for a big financial payoff, but quite often, their first objective is to try to steal your identity. Once they have all the right information, they can potentially open credit cards in your name without you even knowing. If successful, they’d even be able to make fraudulent purchases in your name.

To prevent identity theft, you want to keep your information as close as possible. Keep your Social Insurance Number (SIN) safe by never putting it in your wallet or revealing it to anyone. Changing the PIN on your credit and debit cards regularly is a good idea. The same applies to your passwords, by changing them frequently, thieves will have a harder time accessing your information. Don’t forget to check your bank statements regularly. If you see any suspicious transactions, report it right away so you can block any future attempts at fraud.

Internet scams

It’s really not that hard for criminals to make websites that look legit. These sites will usually offer things such as quick immigration deals, high paying jobs or even debt relief. For you to get access to these services, you need to pay a fee and provide detailed personal data. Both of these are red flags as they’re basically asking for money and your information.

If you’re unsure about the authenticity of a website, do an online search about the company to see if there are any reviews. To ensure your information is safe, check your web browser to see that it’s up to date and has the latest safeguards to protect against targeted attacks. When providing personal details for such things as online shopping, look for HTTPS in the website address to ensure you are on a secure site. Also, think about how you came across the site. If you found it via social media, for instance, or an email from a stranger, you might be dealing with a fraudster.

A variation of this scam is also common on dating websites and apps. Thieves target people who are looking for companionship. Once trust is established, they’ll start asking for small sums of money which eventually leads to bigger amounts. Be cautious of sending money to anyone you’ve never met in person.

Email scams

Similar to internet scams, email scams also appear as if they come from legit companies. The email might link you to an official-looking website where they’ll ask you for your personal information (see above). Sometimes these emails even look like they’re coming from someone you know, but it’s likely fake. Never click any of the links.

Like all other scams, they’re looking for money or your personal information. Never divulge things such as your birthday, password, banking information or even your mother’s maiden name. You should look at the address from which the emails are coming from. The government would never email you from a Hotmail or Gmail account. If it’s a friend or family member asking for support, call them on the phone to verify that they sent you the message.

Text message scams

Thieves try really hard to get your information. Just like the internet and phone scams, they attempt to look official to bait you into giving up your private information. Often the text message you receive will say something along the lines of your account being compromised or to verify your details to receive your funds. It may look real, but the odds are it’s fake.

Generally speaking, companies will never send you a text message unless you’re expecting it. For example, a login verification number that you requested. If you have your doubts, call the company and ask customer service if they sent you the message. Just be sure you’re dialing the number that’s on the corporate website, not one that was included in the text message.

Telephone scams

Arguably, the most aggressive scam is the telephone scam. With this trick, thieves pretend that they’re with the government or other official agency, and you owe them money. If you don’t pay immediately, you’ll be arrested or deported. They’ll even suggest that police are on the way and you’ll be taken jail directly.

This scam preys largely on new Canadians and older people who may be more intimidated, but there’s an easy tell that this is a fraud. The thieves will say that you’ll be let go if you transfer them money via gift cards, cryptocurrency or digital transfers right away. The Canada Revenue Agency will never ask you to pay over the phone, so just hang up right away. The fraudsters will likely call you back multiple times to threaten you again, so just ignore them.

The tactics fraudsters use are continually evolving, so check the Government of Canada’s website regularly for fraud prevention tips. Keeping one step ahead of thieves may take extra effort, but it’ll be worth it.

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The information, materials and opinions contained in this Blog are provided for your information only. This Blog does not constitute legal, financial or other professional advice and you should not rely on it as an alternative to specific advice based on your particular circumstance.

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Barry Choi - Author bio

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert who makes frequent media appearances in Canada. You can follow him on his personal site at moneywehave.com or you can reach out to him on Twitter: @barrychoi