Equifax Canada offers a number of suggestions in time for Fraud Protection Month in March.
“Canadians spend a lot of time online,” says John Russo, Vice President, Legal Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer, Equifax Canada. “Almost half of us shop online, we have about 13 million Facebook and 3.5 million Twitter accounts, and we send nearly five billion text messages each month, according to the Better Business Bureau. Because of this high degree of online activity, we are also susceptible to online fraud.”
Here are some suggestions for safe online shopping, courtesy of Equifax Canada:
- Look at the address. If you’re shopping on a website and you’ve hit the “checkout” button, you should see a change in the Web address at the top of your browser. If the site you’re shopping on is equipped with security layers, you should see “http” change to “https”, and you might also see a small padlock icon, depending on your browser.
- Be careful about the information you give out. We’re often asked for our email addresses, postal codes and shopping habits online and while these can seem like innocent questions, they’re often used to create a profile of you for marketing purposes. If it gets into the wrong hands, all of that information about what you like and how you shop can provide clues that are helpful in stealing your identity.
- Monitor yourself. To keep track of how your personal information is being used, consider signing up for a credit monitoring product. With this product, you will be notified if anyone signs up for an account in your name or with your personal information. Keep a close eye on your bank account and credit card statements to make sure the purchases logged are ones you’ve made. It’s also a good idea to make the effort to check your own credit reports throughout the year for any illicit or unauthorized activity. This will not affect your credit rating, since you are allowed to check your credit report as often as you like throughout the year.
- Change your passwords. It’s good to reset your log-in passwords every so often.
Russo notes that thousands of Canadians are victims of identity theft every year. Some suggestions to help in that area, courtesy of Equifax Canada:
- Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact. Identity thieves will pose as bank representatives, Internet service providers, and even government officials to get you to reveal identifying information.
- Guard your social insurance number. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible, and don’t carry your SIN card. Be sure to keep it in a secure place. Do not put your social insurance number on your cheques. In fact, you only need a few key pieces of identification when you go out, such as an ATM card, credit card, driver’s license and health card. Lock up all the others, including your birth certificate, at home or in a safety deposit box.
- Safeguard personal information in your home, especially if you are having service work done there, employ outside help, or have a roommate.
- Protect your mail. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it’s delivered.
- Shred all documents you are discarding, including pre-approved credit applications received in your name, insurance forms, bank cheques and statements, and other financial information.
- You can also take advantage of some high-tech ways to fight identity theft. Consider monitoring your credit file for potentially fraudulent activity by signing up for the Equifax Credit Watch product. Take steps to detect possible signs of identity theft early – which helps minimize its impact – for only $14.95 a month.