Protecting Your Information
Fraud takes on many forms and is continually changing. Identity theft is a common form of fraud. Identity theft occurs when your personal information (name, date of birth, social insurance number, home address, etc.) is taken and used, without your knowledge or permission, to open bank accounts, apply for and obtain credit cards and loans in your name, write cheques and for other illegal activity. Apart from identity theft, there are many fraud schemes targeting the public where no personal information is taken, such as inheritance letter scams, lottery and vacation prize schemes, false charities and emergency scams.
To find out more about fraud, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center is jointly managed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police and the Competition Bureau Canada and has become a trusted source for fraud data and educational resource materials.
Common Fraud Schemes
Phishing involves the act of attempting to acquire information about an individual by masking as a legitimate business through an email message. The email is disguised to convince the receiver that the email is a legitimate request from an existing and often reputable business or financial institution. The ultimate purpose is to obtain private information that will be used for identity theft. The email will direct the user to visit a website and asks the user to update personal information; usually passwords, credit card and bank account numbers, social insurance number, etc. The website will often look like an authentic company’s website but it is a phony site, set up with the intent to steal information.
First National will not send unsolicited emails to customers or to the general public asking for personal information.
Inheritance fraud typically starts with a letter or e-mail falsely informing someone that they are the recipient of a large inheritance. The recipient of the letter or e-mail usually shares the family surname with the “deceased individual” who has and left behind a substantial amount of money deposited at a financial institution and this money will be turned over to the government if a family member sharing the surname of the deceased is not located. The letter or email assures the recipient that the funds will be released to them legally, requests that the recipient act quickly and states the need to keep the letter private and confidential. Once the recipient responds to the letter, the fraudsters will ask for fees to be paid in preparation for the release of non-existent funds.
To add credibility, fraudsters will falsely claim that they represent or work for a legitimate company. Companies that track down heirs do legitimately exist; however, they do not contact recipients of an inheritance in this way.
First National would not be contacting its customers or members of the public in this manner.
Lottery scams usually originate from an email or a phone call from someone claiming to be with a lottery corporation or another organization stating that your name or email address has been selected and that a prize has been won. In order to claim the prize, the victim is asked to send money to cover the service fees or taxes related to the prize. Legitimate lottery prizes are tax exempt in Canada. Fees or taxes do not have to be paid to Canadian authorities on legitimate lottery winnings. If you have not entered a contest or purchased a lottery ticket, be vigilant; it is likely a scam.
In all fraud schemes, be aware of misspelling and bad grammar, requests for immediate attention and secrecy, promises of a monetary payout or elaborate prizes in exchange for a fee. Fraudsters will prey on individuals that respond to these scams. If it sounds too good to be true, then it likely is.
Protect Your Personal Information
Protecting your personal information plays a vital role in minimizing your risk of becoming a victim of fraud. Here are some tips you can do to help protect yourself:
- Credit Reports: Review your credit report a least once a year. Look for unauthorized credit inquiries or debts reporting on your credit file. Report unauthorized activity immediately to:
Equifax: 1.800.465.7166 (www.equifax.ca)
TransUnion: 1.800.663.9980 (www.transunion.ca)
- Credit Statements: Review your monthly credit statements for unauthorized transactions. Notify creditors if a credit or debit card is lost or stolen. Cancel all inactive credit cards.
- Passwords: Select difficult passwords and change them frequently. Keep your passwords and PINs safe and secure. Do not share responses to personal verification questions with anyone.
- Shredding Documents: Shred or destroy documentation containing your personal information before disposing of it (credit card or debit card receipts, statements etc.).
- Limit Personal Information Online: Be cautious about personal information about yourself online, on social media and networking sites, in chat rooms and unencrypted emails.
- Verify before Acting: Be cautious of schemes sent by emails, dialing a number to access a prize and wiring money to individuals or companies that you do not know, especially if they are asking for personal or account information. Verify the legitimacy of the request and do not respond to unsolicited requests for personal information.
- Secure Personal Information: Store documents and identification containing personal details in a secure location when not in use (i.e. social insurance number and passport stored at home and not in your wallet).
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact that Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s toll free line at 1-888-495-8501 or online at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca for more information.
Thousands of Canadians fall victim to fraud each year. Awareness is the first step to combating fraud and protecting yourself.