How to Avoid Financial Fraud: Protect More Than Your PIN

How to Prepare for Your Post-Debt Life-36

March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada.

As technology evolves, so do the techniques thieves use to trick us out of our money. And despite our basic knowledge on prevention (e.g. don’t share your pin with others, etc.), 85 per cent of Canadians still worry that either they or their loved ones will become a victim of financial fraud; this according to a recent TD survey.

The survey also found that more than one-third (37 per cent) of those surveyed say their elderly parents are too trusting, and their children may not be aware of risks.

Every year, thousands of Canadians fall victim to fraud, losing millions of dollars collectively. You work hard for your money – that’s why you so diligently hover your hand over the keypad to hide your PIN as you punch it in at the ATM. But if you haven’t thought much on how to protect your finances past that, now is the time to start taking some extra precautions:

Change your PIN regularly

Even if you don’t share your pin, it’s always a good idea to switch this number up at least once per year.

Check your statements frequently

Most people check their monthly statements, but it’s better to check your accounts every few days or so to ensure no funny business is going on. This has become extremely easy since almost all banks have rolled out a mobile app. Sometimes thieves will make small charges to your account to see if you’re paying attention before going for a big score later. If you notice anything suspicious, report it right away.

Your identity matters

We worry often about our money being stolen, but having our identities compromised should be the bigger concern. If a thief gets a hold of your social insurance number and home address, they can open credit cards under your name. Rarely do you need to give out your SIN, so keep your card in a safe place at home, not in your wallet. Even better, try to remember your number by heart so you can recall it if you ever need it.

Check your credit report every year

In Canada, there are two credit reporting bureaus – Equifax and Transunion. You should check both every year to make sure there’s no suspicious activity (for example, your credit score decreasing even though you paid your debts in full and on time). Not every company reports to both bureaus so checking both credit bureau reports will ensure you cover all of your bases.

Phishing has changed over time

Most people by now know they shouldn’t trust an email from an overseas prince offering unlimited riches, but phishing scams have evolved. Some scammers now call people directly claiming they owe money to the CRA or another official organization. If you ever receive a questionable call, ask for their contact info and hang up. With that info, go online and check the organization’s website for their official contact info. You can then call them to find out if you indeed owe them money.

Email and mobile scams

Generally speaking, it’s never wise to give away any personal information such as your passwords, credit card information, or SIN number online (including on your cell phone) unless you’re sure the recipient is legitimate. Remember, many phishing scams are meant to appear like the real thing so pay close attention to the links sent to you through email or text. For example, you may receive an email from “Paypal” that asks you to pay for a recent purchase. If you’re unsure, call customer service to verify if they indeed contacted you. 

Door-to-door con artists

Door-to-door scams have been quite popular for years. In a nutshell, a person comes to your door, posing as your hydro provider and asks to see your furnace or bills. They then try to sell you on repairs, upgrades, or even new contracts when in reality, they are from another company attempting to sell you things you don’t need and ultimately steal your money.

Your hydro provider will never perform an unannounced inspection. If you’re approached, ask for their name, photo ID, and business they represent. You should then ask them to leave. You can always call your hydro company later to verify if that person was an actual employee.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

If you ever come across an investment opportunity that’s promising a high return with no risks, it’s probably a scam. For example, an “investor” may reach out offering you 25 per cent in returns if you invest with them. They’ll likely make the first few payments, but push you to invest more; that’s when they may run with your money. Remember, there’s no such thing as easy money, so be cautious if someone ever promises you a way to make money quickly.

Stay updated with recent scams

The CRA website has great resources for learning how to recognize financial fraud, but it’s also worth doing your own additional research. Many local police departments put out press releases when they see an increase in fraud. Or you can simply Google “new financial scams.”

Following these tips can lessen the chance of it occurring, but sometimes you may still become a victim of fraud. It can happen to anyone and if it does happen, don’t panic. Contact your financial institutions and credit card providers and they’ll be able to walk you through the steps to get you back on track.

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