You may think your family is immune from being victimized by fraudsters; however, that may not always be the case. Scammers target citizens from all different backgrounds, ages, and income levels and are constantly changing the methods they are using to scam citizens. Your friends, neighbors, parents, siblings, and even children could be targeted as they start to get identification cards and bank accounts.
March is Fraud Prevention Month and all month long, we’ll be working with partners from across the city to educate Calgarians about how to protect themselves online. Read these tips to help prevent yourself and your family from becoming a victim of fraud. If you have children who are using the Internet or have recently acquired a bank card or identification such as a Social Insurance Number (SIN), be sure to pass these important tips onto them.
The No. 1 rule in fraud prevention is to protect your personal information. It doesn’t take much for someone to become the victim of fraud. A lost wallet or a misplaced ID is often enough to give scammers everything they need to commit identity theft or make fraudulent purchases. To protect yourself, always make sure you only carry with you the items that you actually need on a day-to-day basis. Leave any cards or documents that you don’t use every day, such as SIN cards, bank statements, spare credit cards, at home in a safe location.
Don’t overshare. Never provide more personal information than is needed. For example, your Social Insurance Number should only be given to employers once you have been hired. As well, when registering your information with local retailers, such as for a loyalty program, ask what information is mandatory and only provide those items. Oftentimes, a first name, postal code, and email or phone number is enough. If possible, avoid giving out your last name, address, and any other personal details.
Before you decide to give out your personal information, ask how the information will be stored and who has access to it. If a company that has your personal information has been breached, you should immediately change any online passwords associated to that company and contact them to find out if you’ve been impacted.
Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, texts, or phone calls. Many scammers will try and contact unsuspecting citizens in an attempt to gain personal information and victimize them in the future. This can be done through phone calls, text messages, emails, or other online messaging through social media sites. If you receive any strange requests, never provide your personal information and cease communication immediately.
Never click on links that are included in unsolicited messages, emails, or text messages. If you do accidentally click on these links, never log in to any accounts or input personal or financial information. If you are suspicious of an email, contact the company through a phone number you have Googled yourself to check if it’s legitimate.
Be aware when you’re paying. When paying for things, whether online or in person, always do your due diligence to ensure that your money is going to a legitimate source. If you are using a debit or credit machine, look for any signs that the device has been tampered with, such as loose covers, extra wires, or things preventing your card from being inserted all the way.
If you are conducting your banking or shopping online, you should only be using secure, private Wi-Fi. Make sure that your antivirus software is up-to-date and look for a lock symbol in the browser’s address bar. Also, be sure that the Web address begins with ‘https,’ not just ‘http.’
Protect your electronics. Follow the Calgary Police Service on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Fraud Prevention Month information and to stay up-to-date on current scams and crime prevention tips.
Roger Chaffin is the Chief of Police for the Calgary Police Service.
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