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Insight & advice

Protecting yourself online - Dos and don'ts in the fight against fraud

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  • Scams cost Canadians more than $37 million in 2020.
  • There has been an increase in scams, particularly online fraud, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • There are lots of steps Canadians can take to prevent being scammed online.

The year 2020 will be remembered as a year when most of us spent more time on the web – and fraudsters were no exception.  

Lockdowns saw many of us go online for everything from grocery shopping to bill payments, entertainment and gaming, and this increased activity provided scammers with plenty of opportunity. 

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, scams cost Canadians more than $37 million last year, with schemes including fake contact tracing texts and fraudulent government benefit emails. 

As scams have increased in nature and number due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever for Canadians to take extra care to help prevent identity theft and fraud. 

DO 

DO keep an eye on your credit score 

Checking your credit score is a good way to find out if your info has been compromised. If a scammer has obtained enough of your personal data to take out a loan, line of credit or credit card, they can rack up thousands of dollars of debt without you realizing. 

Often, people only find out there has been a breach once they go to apply for a loan and are denied, or when they receive collection calls for loans or mortgages they don’t recognize. 

It’s a good idea to check your credit score at least once a year. You can also set up a fraud alert on your credit file through one of Canada’s credit reporting bureaus, Equifax or TransUnion. 

If any transactions  or changes to details such as your address occur without your authorization, report it right away. 

DO check your bank statements regularly 

With paperless statements, online banking and mobile apps, it’s never been easier to keep an eye on your bank statements. This will help you instantly see any unfamiliar transactions or amounts that could indicate your details have been stolen. 

Check your bank account at least monthly – something that 87% of Canadians do – and immediately report any suspicious looking activity. 

DO share your info securely 

Make sure that when you’re sharing your personal or bank details online, you’re doing so using secure websites and over secured Wi-Fi networks that make it harder for criminals to view and copy your data. 

A virtual private network (VPN) can also provide an extra layer of encryption for added protection. 

DO be aware of phishing 

Phishing is one of the most common types of cybercrime, and was the fourth most reported type of fraud in 2020. This is when scammers try to obtain your personal information through fake emails, phone calls or text messages. 

If you receive anything from your bank, credit card or pension provider that asks you to share your details, reach out to them through a different means of communication to verify that it’s authentic. Remember, you should never reply to emails that ask you to provide your SIN number or bank details. 

DO shred confidential mail 

While we might live in a world that’s becoming increasingly paperless, there are still plenty of ways old fashioned scammers can get hold of your personal information through the trash. 

If you receive any statements or documentation that contain your personal details, you should always make sure these are shredded before being recycled, and not just put in the garbage. 

DON’T 

DON’T carry important ID documents with you  

Make sure your SIN card, passport and other identifying documents are secured in a safe place at home and aren’t in your wallet or purse. If these become lost or stolen and make their way into the wrong hands, they would provide a criminal with all the vital information they need to create fake accounts in your name. 

DON’T open emails you don’t recognize 

Email scammers are becoming more sophisticated, meaning it’s harder for many people to determine what is and what isn’t real – even though most of us think we can. A 2019 survey from Interac revealed that 70% of Canadians said they felt confident spotting a phishing email, but when put to the test, 96% failed to spot a phony email. It’s important to use anti-virus software, and to never click on a link or open an attachment from a sender you don’t know. 

DON’T answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize 

It’s also a good idea not to answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers. Known as ‘spoofing’, the caller often pretends to be from a body such as the CRA and attempts to trick people into providing personal data over the phone. 

The number of spoof scams have risen in recent years, so if you don’t recognize a number, don’t pick it up. Instead, you can let it go to voicemail, as often spoofers won’t leave a message, and then return any calls that sound genuine. It’s a good idea to make sure your contacts list is up to date, too. 

DON’T use the same passwords for different sites

Creating a memorable password isn’t always easy, and neither is remembering it. In reality, most Canadians need to remember substantially more than just one, as research shows the average person has between 70-80 passwords. This may mean that you often default to using the same or a variation of the same password that makes it easy to remember; unfortunately, this also makes it easy to guess. 

Need a nudge occasionally? Consider writing down password ‘prompts’ to help you remember as opposed to the passwords themselves. If you do wish to write down your password somewhere, make sure to do this on paper as opposed to online, and store it somewhere safely. Creating passwords that don’t include memorable info such as dates or birthdays and changing these every so often can also help reduce the risk of theft. 

DON’T wait to report fraud or identity theft

Reporting your identity theft or fraud as soon as you become aware of it is one of the most important things you can do. It’s estimated that less than 5% of scams are reported – despite Canadians being conned out of millions of dollars each year.

There are plenty of people you might need to call in the wake of identity theft, including:

  • Your bank
  • Your credit card provider
  • Your telecom and/or internet provider
  • Your pensions or benefits provider
  • Canada Post
  • Credit reporting agencies (Equifax or TransUnion)
  • The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

How to report suspicious activity or fraud to Canada Life 

At Canada Life, we’ll never ask you to share personal information via email. 

We’d also never ask you to send us any money or give us your bank details through email or over the phone. Any payments you’d need to make to us would be made directly to The Canada Life Assurance Company via cheque, electronic funds transfer (EFT), or wire transfer.   

If you’ve received something from someone who claims to work for Canada Life and want to make sure it’s genuine, you can email us or get in touch via a confidential tip line.

And finally...

You should never feel guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed about falling victim to a scam. In 2019, 34% of Canadians were caught out by a scam, with 5% of those respondents saying they had experienced fraud online. As many of us continue to work remotely and as we increasingly live our lives online, it’s important to remember these and other key tips that can help you and your data stay safe. 

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