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Foreseeing Fraud: How to Protect Yourself from Financial Fraudsters

Financial Fraud, Grant Thornton Limited

If you are like the many other Canadians who are already overwhelmed by financial stress this year, the last thing you need is to fall victim to financial fraud. Whether you’re banking via public Wi-Fi, swiping your credit card at the gas pump or using tap at a drive-thru, the risk of your personal or financial information being stolen is higher than ever. In order to protect yourself and your money, we’re sharing some must-learn tips and tricks for foreseeing financial fraud in your day-to-day life.

COMMON SIGNS OF FINANCIAL FRAUD

First and foremost, it is important to educate yourself on how legitimate financial institutions (banks, credit unions, Canada Revenue Agency, etc.) would NOT communicate with you in order to spot potential fraud attempts head-on. By identifying what isn’t appropriate behaviour, you will be more cautious when approaching potentially fraudulent situations. Below are some common red flag scenarios to watch out for:

  • You will never be asked for personal, account or login information via email or text message by your financial institution;
  • You will never be asked to pay your balance in gift cards or online credits;
  • You will never be called and asked for personal information out of the blue from a financial institution without reason; and
  • A legitimate financial institution should never deny your request for verification like an employee ID or contact information, or deny your request for record of interaction (i.e., transaction receipt, email confirmation or a recording of your phone call).

If you experience any of the above scenarios, it may be fraudulent behaviour. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so confirm the legitimacy of any questionable attempts of communication by calling or visiting your financial institutions.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) also recommends following these helpful tips when reviewing any potential suspicious behaviour:

  • Never click on any links or attachments you receive in email or text messages.
  • Unless you initiated the inquiry with your financial institution, always be mindful that you don’t truly know who you are dealing with.
  • If you are suspicious of any electronic message received from what appears to be your financial institution, call them directly first.

HOW TO PROACTIVELY PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FINANCIAL FRAUD

Financial fraudsters thrive off stealing your personal or financial information, however, there are ways in which you can proactively safeguard your information. Federal government agencies like the Canadian Antifraud Centre, the Competition Bureau of Canada and the FCAC have an abundance of fraud-related resources available with tips for protecting your personal and financial information. To get you started, try following these top tips to ensure the safety of your information:

  1. Avoid doing your online banking through shared or public and unsecure networks like in coffee shops or at the airport.
  • Be extremely careful with what you share on online social networks. You might find yourself oversharing in the midst of a fun conversation or interaction. Sharing your birthdate or those of your children, where you bank, or any information that could be an answer to a security question should be considered “hands-off” for discussion.
  • Create strong passwords for your accounts and change them frequently.
  • Avoid responding to emails requesting personal or banking information.
  • Check that the email you receive from your financial institution is legitimate by:
  • Ensuring that their email address ends with “@ their name dot ca or dot com”, not from a secondary host like Gmail or Hotmail;
  • Hovering (not clicking) over any links to see if what comes up is a legitimate looking site;
  • Looking for spelling mistakes in the subject line or email body; and
  • If in doubt, call your bank directly to check if the email you received is coming from them.
  • When doing your online banking, always check the URL (or web page) bar for the lock icon or look for the letter “S” after HTTP to ensure the site is secured.

ADDITIONAL MEASURES TO CONSIDER

The best thing that you can do to protect your finances is to identify strange transactions or activities early on by vigilantly monitoring your accounts.  Checking your credit card bills and bank accounts consistently puts you in the driver’s seat by knowing each and every transaction and allowing you to act swiftly the moment something does not look right.

In addition to monitoring your accounts, you should strongly consider checking your credit report at least once a year, if not more.  By viewing your credit report, you can identify and resolve discrepancies that may be fraud related and, even better, look into programs offered by the credit bureaus that can detect and notify you of fraudulent activity impacting your credit report.

Another great safety measure is to refrain from having a build up paperwork at home containing old bills, bank statements, and other documents that may contain personal information. Invest in a good paper shredder to safely discard financial records and to declutter your home office space.

If you’re concerned that you have been a target of financial fraud, you should contact your bank immediately to report the potential fraud and stop any payments or credit card activities that may have been made. Next, report the matter to the RCMP.  You’ll likely be directed to file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the process will continue from there. 

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