Up until a few days ago, I had no idea that Fraud Prevention had its own month, which just happens to be in March! This is something that concerns each and every one of us everyday, as thousands of Canadians fall victim to fraud every year. In fact, though I don’t have the numbers to back this thought up, I’m sure that the more we interact online, the more we’re faced with nameless, faceless, bad people who want to scam us of our identities and/or hard-earned money.

Visa Canada released a study announcing that, “younger Canadians (are) taking risks with their financial information”.

[box type=”info”] “… few Canadians are taking simple steps to stay ahead of fraudsters. Just 10 per cent check their credit report on an annual basis, only 17 per cent have set up alerts to monitor card activity, and most surprisingly, less than half (41 per cent) report checking their payment card statement more than once a month.” ~ Gord Jamieson, Head of Payment System Risk. (source)[/box]

Just recently, a friend of mine was nearly scammed out of $8000 from a very convincing email. It took three of us to confirm that it was definitely a scam and not a potential client. Part of our uncertainty was out of the sheer luck that the content of the email coincided with that friend’s work. It sounded much like the regular emails that he receives on a daily basis, except for a few “weird” demands, all of which concerning credit card charges.

It scares me to think what might have happened should he have followed through with the requests.

How can you prevent yourself from being scammed online?

Don’t leave too much personal information on any public site, including your “private” Facebook page.  I cringe when I see someone leave their phone number on a public site like Facebook, Twitter or a blog post.  Every tweet and every page online is data-mined by robots in hopes of picking up that little bit of information that can help those evil-doers in using your identity for nefarious purposes.  Just don’t do it.

If you handle personal information online, such as your banking, clear that browser cache as soon as your done.  This is information that you do not want to be saved by your helpful browser.  Any basic virus could find that info quickly if your computer is ever attacked.

Multiple, complicated passwords are key. Just this past week Evernote had sent out an email to all of their users stating that there was a chance of their usernames and passwords having been hacked, and thus had reset passwords for all accounts so that the true owners could re-login and choose a new one.

This type of hacking is a constant threat that has disrupted normal service from a number of social media outlets. Just in the past year we’ve heard of online companies like Twitter and LinkedIn being hacked, and our personal information stolen.

So to keep yourself safe, use a different, complicated password that includes:

  • at least one number,
  • at least one UPPERcase letter,
  • if available to do so, at least one symbol such as: # % ! $,
  • and the longer the password string the better.  Absolute minimum should be 8 characters long.

Doing so means that if a hacker has figured out what your Twitter password is, they won’t be able to use it to get into your Email, Facebook, LinkedIn or even, your uber important Pinterest account.

Just what could a hacker do with that information though?

If I were a hacker, I would try those stolen usernames and passwords on other big sites to see what I could find. Or if the email address were something like “mine@hotmail.com”, I would definitely test out the unencrypted password to see if the victim has used one main password for all of their online interaction, including email. Imagine all of your emails in your inbox right now – are any of them banking related? Cable/Internet bills? Is your home phone number in the Sent folder, ’cause you had to send it to your child’s hockey coach to keep up to date with future games?

Our life is in our emails, and its a scary thought that someone might have potential access to it.  The more information a hacker has on you, the more capable they are of creating fraudulent documentation, such as credit cards and drivers licenses.  Have you seen the movie Identity Thief?  It’s not the best work of Melissa McCarthy nor Jason Bateman, in my humble opinion, but it sure strikes home what a person can do with your information.

To get the most out of Fraud Prevention Month, VISA has created a fabulous little “Choose Your Own Adventure” to help recognize possible online AND offline threats to you and your funds.  Particularly based on the survey results that found that almost half (45 per cent) of 18-34 year olds reported taking risks with their payment card information! Eek!  Not good.

WATCH: The Concert by VISA

And now for our contest!  Thanks to Visa Canada, you have a chance to win a $100 (Canadian) Visa gift card! Enter through the rafflecopter form below. Please read the details of each entry carefully, as I am going to dislike deleting entries that do not follow contest guidelines.  The rules are simple and are only there to keep this contest fun for everyone!

Good luck! 🙂

$100 Visa Canadian Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway