This information can never be shared enough – please pass it along, whether the people you know are tech vets or tech newcomers. No matter what you’re doing online—shopping, banking, or using social networks to connect with others—it pays to protect yourself against fraud during the holiday season. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) offers some timely tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of online fraud – along with all kinds of other important financial information.
“Canadians are sharing lots of information online when they use social media, buy goods and services and engage in activities like gaming and chatting,” says FCAC Commissioner, Ursula Menke. “But as more personal data is disclosed, unfortunately more is also being stolen. It is important that Canadians are aware of not only how this information can be stolen, but how they can protect themselves.”
FCAC has recently updated its anti-fraud resources to provide consumers with more information on how online fraud can occur. For example, fraudsters often steal information from people using social networking tools or public wireless Internet access (also called Wi-Fi), which is typically offered for free in locations such as coffee shops, hotel lobbies and airports.
Some of the more common ways that people expose themselves to fraud include:
- using public or unsecured wireless Internet
- sharing too much on social networking sites
- entering personal information on unsecure or fake websites
- downloading viruses, spyware or malware, programs designed to damage or do unwanted things on your computer
- allowing a computer to save a password or personal information
- creating an online profile that includes credit card or banking information
- saving passwords on a computer in a file that has not been encrypted, or protected by a key or password.
Fraudsters are trying to get any information they can find about you. Your personal details may not be harmful on their own, but once they are combined, a fraudster can build a profile, steal your identity and access your financial accounts.
How to reduce your risks
- Do not post your home address, telephone number, children’s names, names of schools or employers, or specific details about when you will be absent from home on business trips or vacations.
- If you post your birthday, do not include your year of birth.
- Use different passwords for different applications like social networking sites, email, online banking, etc. Change your passwords often.
- Only use secure Internet access when you access social networking sites. Make sure there is a lock symbol in the browser window and that the site’s address begins with “https” (the “s” stands for secured).
- Do not use public Wi-Fi hotspots to link to your social networking pages.
- Use the social networking site’s enhanced privacy settings and only allow approved people to access your profile.
- Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know.
What to do if you become a victim
- Start a written log: write down when you noticed the fraud and the actions you took, including names of people you spoke to and dates of communications.
- File a report with your local police.
- Contact your financial institutions and any other companies (for example, phone company, cable provider, etc.) where your accounts were tampered with, or are at risk of being tampered with.
- Advise Canada’s two credit rating agencies, TransUnion and Equifax.
- Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and learn more at the website Get Cyber Safe.