You know the importance of protecting your money, your personal bank information, and your identity. But it can be overwhelming to think of all the ways that you could be at risk. Fraudsters and scammers still exist (rampantly) for a reason: they are good at what they do. They can be convincingly official. Their scare tactics and sales trick work.
What you need help with is how to protect yourself. Here are 10 simple steps to do now and keep in mind always whenever you’re on and offline.
Protect your money: 10 tips for fraud awareness
1. Strengthen your passwords
The strength of your passwords is your first and, in some cases, the only line of defence against fraud. If it’s easy to remember, it’s probably easy to steal. The same goes for your security questions. If the name of your first pet is all over your publicly accessible social media networks, for example, it shouldn’t be a security answer. Every website, bank login, e-commerce site, email, social account, Netflix login, and so on should have a strong and unique password.
Consider using an application such as LastPass, which generates and saves complicated, long and secure passwords. If you’re using a password management system, be sure to create a secure password for your account and always log out after every use on your devices.
2. Use multi-factor authentication and identity verification
Beyond securing your login information, consider setting up two-step authorization wherever possible. More online platforms, websites, and services are enforcing multi-factor authentication and identity verification before payments and logins can be completed. This is an important layer of defence, especially for any and all digital payments. Devices that have fingerprint and facial recognition entry points are another good way to protect yourself against fraud.
3. Consider what information you share with who
Your personal information should be protected and treated with the utmost care at all times. Never share your social insurance number (SIN) (except with your employer or the government). Be careful of who has access to your personal bank information. In the wrong hands, personal identifiers such as your name, address, birth date, SIN, and bank information can lead to identity theft and fraud.
Scammers could open bank accounts, make online purchases, draw money from accounts, apply for mortgages, jobs, and so on. Make sure that you know who you’re giving information to—and why.
4. Follow your instincts when it comes to spam
Unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters are getting more clever and persistent in their ways. Phone calls that seem official and threatening. Emails that you have won a too-good-to-be-true prize. Popups for ads that might be useful. E-commerce sites that sell something you want. If something seems phishy, it very well could be. Follow your instincts with threatening calls and suspicious websites.
Hang up and call the official number of said service back. Wait for an official letter in the mail. Call your bank or government if you suspect that your accounts or identity have been compromised.
5. Consider how you pay
Paper cheques have all of your personal bank account information listed at the bottom, your name and address at the top, as well as your signature. This is everything that a fraudster needs to steal your identity. Especially if it’s intercepted in the mail. Wire transfers and pre-paid cards can also be risky as it’s hard to get your money back if intercepted. Credit cards, debit cards, and digitized cheques, on the other hand, have built-in fraud protection that helps secure your money in most cases.
6. Make the connection
Always initiate contact with official services such as banks, employers, and governments. They will never call or email you if it is important. When in doubt, call the official number back, not a number given by a caller or emailer.
7. Avoid clicking unknown links, emails, popups, and downloads
The same goes for official emails and services. Never click through to a link. Go to the official website, platform, or service page. Never open unknown emails. Never click on links within emails or websites before checking them first. If you hover over the link, without clicking on it, the URL will appear below. Ensure that it is the correct link before clicking on it.
8. Secure your devices with up-to-date security software
Your desktop, laptop, and mobile phones should all be protected by up-to-date popup blockers, security software, and malware detectors. Ensure that you are protected wherever you browse, click, shop, or make payments online.
9. Practice safe online browsing
Having security software working in the back-end to protect you is important. However, do your part to practice safe online browsing. Never click unknown pop-ups or suspicious ads, links, chats, emails, prizes, videos, downloads, and so on. If you do, immediately close the link and do not fill out forms or share any personal information.
10. Consider tokenized digital payments
Many websites and platforms are turning to tokenized systems for extra security and less risk. Tokens are algorithmically created numbers that represent your personal bank information. This means that your actual account information is never shared, transferred, or stored during online shopping or digital payments.