As we approach winter in Canada and the holiday shopping bonanza begins, it’s important to be diligent against identity theft. While a solid defence against thieves is important year-round, it’s noteworthy that online shopping increases as the mercury drops and more people turn to online shopping. Digital Seniors Canada is committed to educating you about identity theft through a new, important series of articles about identity theft.
What is it?
As defined in our glossary, ID theft is fraudulent acquisition and use of an individual’s identifying data or information for criminal financial gain. Social Insurance Numbers, credit cards, bank accounts and other data are sought out by thieves. Seniors are often targeted by thieves who prey on a lack of technology knowledge and available funds. The retired demographic isn’t the only victim to this crime so staying on top of the threat is important for everyone.
How does it happen?
Your data is everywhere. Shredding discarded mail is a great start to avoiding ID theft but is only the tip of the iceberg. Even if you are a cash-only shopper who avoids all loyalty programs, keep your money in between your mattresses and pay bills in person, you’re at risk. We are all at risk for ID theft. I’m not trying to imply a sense of financial doom, but all it takes is having a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN) and most people have more than just that.
ID theft – email
Email soliciting is an old but still common way for thieves to commit this heinous crime. Thieves are able to fool tech savvy victims so valid companies, banks and online businesses need to constantly update their own policies and business procedures. Thieves create websites that mimic valid businesses (online stores, banks, credit card companies etc). They email you, pretending to be a valid sender from a business you subscribe to and include links, viruses, digital Trojan horses, malware, spyware and other criminal tools, ready to steal your information through your computer. A few important ways to avoid this is to follow some general rules:
- Read your bank/credit card/other company’s policy on email communication. They should be able to tell you what to expect from them in terms of online activity. If they tell you they will never ask for your password in an email, believe them.
- Create secure passwords and follow basic protective guidelines (don’t share your password, avoid sequential numbers and letters, no use of dictionary words – the list goes on).
- Look at email senders, links and download items with a suspicious eye. If the email claims to be from a bank but the sender’s reply-to email doesn’t match the bank’s name, delete it (click on reply to validate the sender and then cancel the draft). If the message was important, you can call the bank and confirm.
- Delete and redirect yourself – If the offer is indeed legit, don’t click on it. Close the email and go to a browser and log in. If the coupon, sale or promotion is valid, your account should reflect it whether you used the email bait or not.
- Stay on top of email by knowing what to expect before you open or download anything. Do not click any executable files or attachments that you aren’t expecting. Even if the email comes from a trusted name or contact you know. Anyone can have have their account hacked. Files, links and software are easily masked as something they aren’t.
This list is in no way complete but a simple starter compilation of guidelines.
One very tedious but huge factor in this arena is passwords. So many people complain about forgetting them but they truly are a way of authenticating your identity online. The more intricate a password the more secure an account. Think of a password as a digital fingerprint.