Quitting smoking, losing weight, or getting rid of debt are all popular New Year’s resolutions, but most people don’t think about protecting their personal information. New Year’s resolutions are currently in full swing, but unfortunately many Canadians don’t spend half as much time getting their identity protection in shape as they do their waistlines.
“Most of us focus on losing a few pounds as our New Year’s resolution, but often fail to protect against losing something else—our financial and personal information,” says Sandra Crozier-McKee, President and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. “Protecting your identity will not only protect your pocketbook, but help ward off thieves looking to commit fraud using your name and information.”
Keep your identity and personal information in tip-top shape this year with these BBB tips:
- Be skeptical of job offers that promise easy money. With high unemployment and long job searches common, scammers are targeting desperate job seekers. Beware of any job offer, work-at-home scheme, or business opportunity that requests personal information upfront and promises big money for little work and no experience.
- Check with BBB before you buy. In 2014, our local BBB serviced more than 1.4 million consumers in the Southern Alberta and East Kootenay region. Between business reviews, scam reports, complaints, customer reviews, and other inquires, BBB has relevant and timely marketplace information to help consumers make informed decisions.
- Regularly check your statements. With data breaches costing Canadians an average of $250 per capita in 2015, it’s crucial to keep track of your personal information. Regularly check your account statements for unauthorized transactions. The faster you find them, the better your odds of getting your money back and stopping future thefts.
- Check your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report a year from TransUnion or EquiFax to make sure all your information is current and correct. Ensure that no one has opened accounts in your name using stolen information.
- Limit what you share on social media. Scammers use social media sites to gather information on potential victims. Avoid sharing too much personal information and check your privacy settings. Also, never announce on a social media site that you are going out of town or won’t be home for specific period of time.
- Keep your computer and phone safe. Install anti-virus software on your computer and phone, and check regularly for software and operating system updates and patches. Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails unless you can confirm the email came from someone you trust. Be cautious using unsecured public WiFi hotspots and don’t make any financial transactions on these networks as they aren’t always secure.
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scams require that the victim wire money back to the scammers. Scammers know that tracking money sent via wire money transfer is extremely difficult. Once you’ve wired the money, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.
- Shred sensitive documents. Shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones, and digital data at your local electronic recycling facility. Be sure to discard any information and memory cards before having your device recycled or refurbished.
- Always read the fine print-especially with “free” trial offers. Sometimes “free trials” result in repeated charges to your credit or debit cards if you don’t take the steps to cancel the trial. Read the terms and conditions of any “free” trial offer before handing over credit or debit card numbers.
- Fight fake cheque fraud. Thanks to advances in printing technology, scammers have the ability to create professional-looking phony cheques. Be extremely wary of cheques that come with claims that you’ve won a lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a secret shopper. Remember, you never pay to win.
- Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a company’s word for it. Get every verbal agreement in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between what you expect and what the business delivers. Written documentation will also provide some recourse should problems arise down the road.
For tips you can trust, visit: www.bbb.org