How to Steer Clear of The Scammers
Be Web Savvy: 6 Tips to Steer Clear of Internet Fraud
Even if you’re a seasoned veteran of the web, you can never be too careful when it comes to keeping your online accounts and your identity safe from hackers and scammers. It’s estimated that 68 per cent of all Canadian adult Internet users have experienced some form of cybercrime in their lifetime according to a 2013 research study by Norton. Don’t want to become a statistic? Follow these tips and tricks we’ve put together to help you and your friends and family stay safer online.
1. Don’t Trust Emails from Unknown Senders
As the old adage goes, if it’s too good to be true, it most certainly is. If a distant relative’s lawyer or bank contacts you from a country you’ve probably never heard of, delete the email and block the sender immediately. These scams most often require you to wire a pre-determined amount of money to their bank account in order for you to inherit or share a lot of money. If you’re thinking to yourself, “no one really falls for that,” you might be surprised to learn that a 2012 report by Statistics Canada found that online fraud alone accounted for 54 per cent of all cybercrimes reported to police. Scams like this continue to take money from Canadians every day, making this “no-brainer” tip very relevant.
2. Never Give Out Your Personal Information
Phishing scams are another prevalent issue that almost all Internet users will encounter. And not in the “let’s-go-to-the-lake-and-catch-us-some-salmon” variety, but in the “let’s-get-you-to-click-on-a-fake-website-and steal-your-identity” variety. In 2014, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported that there were more than 20,000 victims of identity fraud who collectively lost nearly $10.5 million dollars. Phishing scams often appear as a bank or other legitimate online company requesting you click on a link where you then need to fill in your personal information. Remember: no legitimate banking institution or company (like eBay, your utility company, etc.) will EVER ask you to verify your information online. If they need to contact you, they will phone you. This is a way for thieves to steal banking and other personal information, such as your social insurance number, in order to steal your identity. Be wary of these emails. And when in doubt, call the bank and ask them.
3. Create Strong Passwords
A recent survey by Symantec found that only 38 per cent of globally consumers always use a secure password. When creating online accounts, you’ll be requested to create a secure password. These passwords should never be anything that is too familiar to you, such as your name, your address, any birthdates in your family or names of other family members. These pieces of information can easily be found out. Rather, use a random combination of upper case and lower case letters and numbers. Most sites will even let you use special characters like #$%!. Remember: the more secure your password, the more secure your private information and accounts will remain. Be extra vigilant and schedule a reminder to change your password every three months.
4. Practice Safe Shopping and Selling
It is quite common to use online classifieds to buy or sell new and used items such as sofas, TVs, computers, etc., but shopping sites like Craigslist or Kijiji also attract scammers. It’s always best, whether you’re buying or selling an item, to meet the other party in a neutral, public and mutually convenient location. If you are selling an item, never invite a stranger to your home unless you have someone there with you who is able-bodied and can help in an emergency. No matter what, don’t ever invite them into your home; instead, bring the item out into your building lobby or your front porch. Cash transactions are also best to avoid any bounced cheques or transactional hiccups.
5. Never Share Your Vacation Schedule
Everyone loves going on vacation, but you should never broadcast it on social media sites before you leave or while you’re away. This is a really easy way for thieves to find out when no one will be at home so they can rob you. Don’t post dates, don’t post locations, don’t even say you’re planning a trip. You can always post those vacation pictures once you’re safely back at home. The less information people have about your comings and goings, the better. And since we’re on the topic of sharing, please also never ever, ever share any bank account information, credit card details, social insurance numbers or anything else people can use to steal your identity online or through email.
6. Be informed
If you want to learn more about scams that are currently in play or want to know how to stay safer while online, visit the TELUS WISE website (which stands for Wise Internet and Smartphone Education) for more information. TELUS WISE is a free program created by TELUS to educate Canadians of all ages on Internet and smartphone safety. There are new and increasingly clever scams that pop up on the Internet every day, and keeping informed could mean the difference between staying safe and getting scammed.
The Internet is such an integral part of our lives that sometimes we forget how vulnerable we really are on the web. Following these six tips is a great way to start becoming more cognizant of your online behavior and ensuring cyber safety for you and your family. Make sure to share this post to help others get in the know.
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