How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

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Posted by Sharon Perry on September 19, 2017 in Blog, Sharon's Corner, Small Business

From coast to coast, identity theft and fraud are on the rise across the country. And no one is immune— not even the Canada Revenue Agency.

The last tax season saw scammers pretending to be from the CRA, duping folks into handing over their personal information. If you’re hoping to avoid becoming the next victim of a phishing scam, here are some handy tips to help you keep a better eye on fraudsters and your finances.

WHAT ARE PHISHING SCAMS?

Phishing is an online scam created by tech-savvy con artists and identity theft cybercriminals. Hackers use fake websites and false emails designed to get victims to disclose sensitive information, including credit card, bank account, passport, and social insurance numbers. Phishers then use your data to generate phony accounts, run up debt, steal your identity, or hijack your files until a ransom is paid.

Since 2013, CRA phishing scams have become an increasingly popular tool for defrauding people, by phone or email. Fraudsters claiming to be from the CRA are contacting people and asking for financial or banking information to settle outstanding debts to the government.

HOW DO I PREVENT PHISHING ATTACKS?

Don’t Click On Suspicious Looking Links. Without a doubt, the single most effective thing you can do to avoid a phishing scam is to prevent one from happening in the first place. So, before you go all “click happy,” make sure you trust the sender. Don’t click on suspicious links or pop ups, and always delete emails requesting personal information—reputable companies will never ask for sensitive data from their clients. When it comes to protecting yourself from ID thieves, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Verify The Security Of A Website. Before giving any information to a website, make sure it’s secure. Fraudsters are becoming more and more sophisticated, creating sites that look exactly like existing ones. To make sure you don’t get the digital wool pulled over your eyes, verify that the site’s URL begins with “https.” Also, check to see that the website has valid contact information that includes email, social media, telephone, and possibly a physical address.

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Stay On Top Of Your Online Account Activity. Did you know that it can take months or even years before you discover that you’ve fallen victim to identity theft? Well, cybercriminals sure do. Thieves can use your accounts for a very long time, without you figuring it out until it’s too late. To help keep tabs on your online activity, set up alerts to spot unauthorized transactions. Paying more attention to your financial accounts now could save you a ton of cash and headaches down the road.

Ensure Your Computers And Laptops Are Protected. Just like the vultures they are, ID thieves are always waiting in the shadows, searching for the weaknesses in your online infrastructure. As soon as your defenses are down, scammers swoop in to take want they want.

If you want to keep the cyber-predators at bay, beef up your security. Install anti-virus software and firewalls on all your computers, laptops, and other devices. Also, regularly change your passwords and make sure to keep your browser up-to-date.

Phishing scams are never to be taken lightly. Thieves are getting better at doing what they do, leaving you to pick up the pieces and the tab. As online criminal activity continues to grow, it’s up to you to do everything you can to help limit the online threat.

***This blog is for information only and not to be used as tax advice or planning. Information is subject to change without notice.