3 new identity theft scams- and how to protect yourself (and your pocketbook)
Cyber-crime and online identity theft have seen a sharp increase over the past few years; resulting in billions of dollars stolen from victims; and leaving endless misery and destruction in its wake. This week’s blog addresses three of the more common scams we are seeing lately; and how you can protect yourself- and your bank account.
1) Beware of Facebook surveys
We’ve all seen them on our social media (mostly Facebook) pages. Surveys with multiple questions that seem totally innocuous- and fun- given the fact that many people are sitting at home bored. The surveys have questions like:
“What is your birth day/month?” “Where were you born?” “What is your favourite colour?” “What was your first pet’s name?” “Who was your favourite teacher?” “Where do you work?”
People have taken to answering these surveys- but local police are warning people that these surveys are allowing scammers to access their bank accounts by providing them with the answers to their security questions. (For more information, check out this recent CBC article: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/tech-columnist-warns-against-taking-social-media-quizzes-for-fun-1.5442282)
It seems that hacker farms- located globally but most commonly operating in India and Russia- have used the power of Facebook to collect inside information from millions of unsuspecting users- and then leveraging this information to access their private accounts and setup fake accounts in these users’ names.
If you see these surveys online- DO NOT answer them.
2) Limit the information on your social media accounts
Most people do not realize that their social media accounts often give up far too much private information about themselves- which in this instance, can also be used to gain access to email and bank accounts, and set up fake profiles. The “About Me’ section on Facebook allows people to add personal information under 6 different sub-headings: a) Work and Education b) Places You’ve Lived c) Contact and Basic Info d) Family and Relationships e) Details About You and f) Life Events.
In order to prevent hacking and identity theft- you should answer as little of these questions as possible and restrict this information. Check your privacy settings and ensure that this information is viewable only by people on your friends list- and not the general public- however, you should go one step further and ensure that even those in your friends list cannot access this information- as recent reports suggest that as many as 20% of the profiles on Facebook are fake and may be used for malicious intent. You should also review your friends list on a regular basis and remove people you do not know or have never met in person.
3) Beware Phone and Text Scams
The past few years have seen criminals really get creative when it comes to using phone and text message scams to gain information from victims. Most recently, they have been taking advantage of the Covid-19 crisis by posing as banks and government agencies- promising people help accessing their CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefits). Victims click on the link provided to them in the text message- which then asks them for their bank account login information- and when people give up this information- they are essentially turning over their bank accounts to these fraudsters.
Canadian banks and government agencies have said on multiple occasions that they will never ask people for their banking information via text message or phone call. If you get such messages- the best thing to do is to not even respond- just ignore them- or block the sender if your phone allows you the option. Sadly, many of society’s most vulnerable people- especially senior citizens- are being taken advantage of in this crisis. Recovering lost money can take years or in some cases, is downright impossible.
Please ensure that you and your loved ones follow these tips. Be vigilant of potential scams floating around on social media that may seem as innocuous as a simple survey or questionnaire, cab really be the cover for something far more sinister.
Remember, only you can prevent these acts from happening.