March is Fraud Prevention Month: an annual campaign that seeks to help you recognize, reject, and report fraud. Your financial security can quickly become compromised with a single click of a button. It's vital that you stay informed about current threats and guard your personal information with the utmost scrutiny.
How Identity Thieves Get Your Personal Information
It happens when someone steals your personal information―your social insurance, driver's license, health card, credit card or debit card number or your PIN. Criminals get this information in several ways including stealing your cards, sorting through garbage, or finding ways to capture information from unsecure websites (Atlantic Canadian credit union online banking sites are completely secured against cyber-criminals). They may also pose as a financial institution or utility company employee, or as another individual and use devious ways to find out your PIN number. It can happen to anyone.
People use an ATM to get money for groceries, charge tickets to a credit card for a hockey game, mail their tax returns, call home on their cell phones or apply for a new credit card. We don't give these everyday transactions a second thought. But someone else does: someone who is interested in using these everyday transactions to steal your personal information and use it to commit fraud or theft.
- steal wallets and purses containing your identification, credit and debit cards
- steal your mail, including your debit and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, telephone calling cards and tax information
- complete a change of address form to divert your mail to another location
- rummage through your garbage or the garbage of businesses for personal data
- find personal information in your home
- use personal information you share on the Internet
How You May Be Approached
Many scams begin with spam emails that promote risky investments and often have little accompanying information. You may also get an unsolicited phone call about an investment opportunity. These usually involve high-pressure tactics, like repeat calls or limited-time offers. The business may sound real. The caller might give you an address, a toll-free number or a website that appears legitimate. However, the address may not be that of their company. Also, anyone can build a website these days.
From email scams to telephone fraud to identity theft, new ways to deceive are constantly emerging. The best way to combat these threats is to stay informed. When it comes to investment scams, if you have a financial plan you’re more likely to choose investments that are right for you, not a “no risk, one-time opportunity” offered by a potential fraudster.
- Never give your money to strangers who contact you unexpectedly online or by phone
- Never invest in anything that you don’t fully understand
- Take your time making investment decisions
- Never sign documents you have not read carefully
- Sign credit cards when they arrive. Use chip cards
- Protect your PIN and passwords from others
- Review your bank and credit card statements when they arrive
- Safely discard or shred all personal materials
- Perform an annual free credit check from a credit bureau such as Equifax or TransUnion
- Report any theft of personal information to your local police, your financial institution, the credit bureau and any service providers that you use
- Do not install screen sharing or other software on your computer deemed necessary by a caller
How to Report Fraud
Don't let embarrassment or fear keep you from reporting financial fraud or abuse. Scam artists prey on your fear and count on that to prevent you from notifying authorities of a scam. Every day that you delay reporting fraud is one more day that the fraudster is free to spend your money and target your friends and family as their new victims.
If you think someone has approached you or someone you know with a scam, you should report it. Even if you recognized it as a scam, reporting it could save someone else from losing their life savings. If you think you may have been the victim of a scam involving insurance, investments, direct sellers (e.g., door-to-door sales), real estate agents, or mortgage brokers, you should report it to Financial and Consumer Services Commission of New Brunswick (FCNB). You may make a report to FCNB online at www.fcnb.ca or by phone (1-866- 933-2222).
Trisha Leaver, OMISTA's Senior Marketing Manager, has a passion for sharing the credit union difference and empowering New Brunswickers to choose a better way to bank www.omista.ca