Avoiding fraud and identity theft in times of crisis

It’s said that a crisis brings out the best in people and, in most cases, that’s true. But there is a dark side to tough times, as fraudsters prey on people who are uncertain and looking for easy answers.

Some fraudsters are using COVID-19 as a cover to launch new underhanded schemes to separate Canadians from much-needed funds.

We have assembled some helpful tips to provide information on how to avoid being a victim, during the current crisis and in everyday life. The tips are especially focused on online activities.

Protect yourself with these tips from CPA Canada:

1. Strengthen your passwords

Creating strong, unique passwords is the first line of defense in securing your information from fraudsters. Avoid using simple, commonly used passwords and create unique passwords for each of your accounts. If you have trouble keeping track of them, consider writing your passwords down. More than one-in-five (22 per cent) respondents of a recent CPA Canada fraud survey admit to doing this, which is fine as long as the information is stored in a safe location. Alternatively, you can use a password manager to create and store strong passwords.

2. Review your credit card and banking transactions at least once a month for illegitimate activities

The good news is 87 per cent of Canadians surveyed review their credit card and banking transactions at least once a month, which makes it easier than ever to stay on top of spending. Make it simpler to stay on top of spending by subscribing to receive alerts for every transaction on your bank or credit cards. This is a helpful service offered by most banks to provide real-time monitoring for any suspicious account activity.

3. Shred personal documents before disposing of them

Nearly one fifth of Canadians surveyed (19 per cent) admit to disposing of sensitive documents without shredding them. A single document containing your name, address, or other identifying information such as birthdays or account numbers, can give fraudsters all they need to access and manipulate your personal information.

4. Know your approximate credit score (credit rating)

More than one third (36 per cent) of Canadians surveyed admitted they do not know their credit score. Request a credit report from Equifax or TransUnion Canada at least once a year to monitor for illegitimate activities. If you regularly shop or transact online, consider using a credit monitoring service to monitor your score proactively.

5. Screen your calls: Don’t answer a call or a text message if you don't recognize the number

Fraudsters are always coming up with new ways to obtain your personal information and 37 per cent of Canadians don’t screen calls from unknown numbers. Whether it’s a call from a fraudulent telemarketer, a questionable text message or an automated response asking for your information, avoid taking the bait and being lured into sharing your personal information with anyone except your trusted contacts.

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