Phoney This, Phoney That

read

Post

By Lydia Bzowej, February 15, 2019

I live in Durham region in Ontario and in one week two headlines in our local paper screamed out at me: “Durham warns of phoney water treatment sales pitches” and “Phone scams continue at alarming pace, Durham police warn”. So, let’s consider some of the ways to protect yourself against fraud – both online and by phone.

Online

Online threats have been around for years. These include phishing scams which are e-mails purporting to be from a bank, Canada Post, FedEx, and recently PayPal and even the CRA. Most companies will not send you an e-mail saying that your account has been threatened so never, ever click the link in these e-mails or enter any personal data. Delete the e-mail or forward it to the company’s fraud department for review. If you are really concerned, call the company directly through numbers listed on their website to confirm that your information has not been compromised.

Passwords

So many passwords for so many sites and devices! Using the same simple password over and over, while easier, can also be dangerous. Some tips for creating effective passwords:

  1. Each account should have its own unique password.
  2. Passwords should be at least 8 characters long with a combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers and/or symbols.
  3. Create a list of passwords for reference and keep away from your computer.
  4. There are passwords generators available online to help you create random passwords. There are a number of password managers available to help you.

Phone scams

These scams have been around for a while but have been increasing at an alarming rate. The CRA scam has received the most attention recently due to both the frequency that is being reported and the fear it brings to every one of us who files taxes. You receive a phone call, often on your cell phone, from someone claiming to be with CRA. They advise that you are overdue on your taxes and demand immediate payment. They threaten you with arrest unless you immediately go to your bank and transfer money. The cell phone works particularly well as they can keep you on the phone the entire time while you are going to the bank. Sadly, this has worked many times – people feel threatened, get very scared and are defrauded out of thousands of dollars.

Remember, CRA will NEVER e-mail or call you looking for money. Correspondence is always by mail. If you are contacted any other way hang up and report the call to the police.

One of our own staff at Polson Bourbonniere Derby received an e-mail from Air Canada a few weeks ago advising that there was a phone scam making the rounds. They indicated that people were receiving calls offering a prize or vacation from Air Canada. Attempts were then made to collect personal information for fraudulent purposes. Air Canada advised that they never promote by phone and recommended that anyone contacted should hang-up and report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) by phone or online:

Phone: 1-888-495-8501 (PHONEBUSTERS)
Online: Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
This site is a terrific source of information regarding current scams making the rounds.

Emergency scams

We want to highlight this particular scam for individuals who are grandparents and are the major target of this ploy. In this case, the scammers go through mail, social networking profiles, etc. to gather information. They then call a grandparent – often in the middle of the night for maximum effect – claiming to be a grandchild who is in trouble. They ask their “grandparent” to send money via Western Union and not tell anyone else in the family for fear of consequences. Unfortunately, this works all too frequently.

There are always going to be people who try to steal from others; the internet, with all of its available information, is making this easier to do. Never let someone intimidate you into sending money or providing personal information by phone or online. Verify first, double check the information, and always report such instances.

This article is a general discussion of certain issues intended as general information only and should not be relied upon as tax or legal advice. Please obtain independent professional advice, in the context of your particular circumstances. iA Private Wealth is a trademark and business name under which iA Private Wealth Inc. operates. iA Private Wealth Inc. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.

Related insights

Cybersecurity Essentials to Better Protect Your Money and Your Identity

read

By iA Private Wealth, March 03, 2020

The internet is an efficient way for you to stay connected with family and friends. On the flipside, like any public environment, you need to be aware and cautious. Just as locks on your doors can help you secure your home and belongings, there are steps you can take to safeguard your computer and personal information. Even the most tech-savvy among us can become the target of con artists. Recognizing the signs of online fraud is an important first line of defence – and, fortunately, there are a few simple tactics you can use to protect yourself.

Common internet scams

Phishing/spoofing is when someone tries to trick you, typically by email or text message, into revealing valuable personal information, like your Social Insurance Number (SIN). A typical scenario involves a scammer impersonating your bank in an email to get you to enter your personal or banking details into a fraudulent website to gain access to your money.

Forex and investment scams use false or fraudulent claims to solicit investments or loans. You might notice claims on social media (Facebook, Twitter), on websites or in your email promising outsized returns for trading in foreign currency and offshore investment “opportunities.” These scams typically ask for help moving money out of a country, with the offer to share the proceeds.

Malware/scareware/ransomware is malicious software designed to damage or disable computer systems. In the case of ransomware, the cybercriminal will block your access to your computer until you pay a ransom, typically in virtual currency such as bitcoin (which will make their crime less traceable).

Cybersecurity best practices

Critical steps to protecting your digital life include:

  • Using passwords and a password manager. A good password manager will generate and save strong passwords, then autofill them on the associated website or login screen as needed. No more memorizing or keeping unsafe paper records.
  • Using security software. Install anti-virus software and anti-spyware on your devices from a reliable source and keep it updated. Steer clear of apparent security updates from pop-up ads or emails – they may be malware that could infect your computer. Using a firewall is another step you can take to fend off hackers who might try to crash your computer or delete or steal sensitive information.
  • Having the latest operating system. Be sure your computer operating system reflects the most recent update, which can include patches to fix newly identified security holes.
  • Being watchful with downloads. Carelessly downloading attachments from your email can circumvent even the most vigilant anti-virus software. Never open email attachments from people you don’t know and be wary of any unexpected attachments forwarded to you from those who you do know, but who may be unwittingly spreading malicious code because their accounts were hacked.

Turning off your computer. Shutting down your computer severs an attacker’s connection, be it spyware or a botnet, which is a string of connected computers that may be using your computer’s resources to find other unwitting victims.

When online, embrace your inner skeptic

While there’s no foolproof method for staying safe online, you can take meaningful steps to avoid and deter criminal encounters. A healthy dose of skepticism is useful here. Take what you see online with a grain of salt, question claims that seem too good to be true and keep important details about yourself private. All these actions can go a long way in ensuring you’re as safe on your computer as you are in real life – or IRL, for the tech-savvy.

How we can help

Preserving your assets is key to any wealth management strategy. Securing your online presence and working with one of our skilled Investment Advisors can help you position your portfolio for success and achieve greater financial well-being.