Fraud and how to protect yourself
This is a chapter that could take up a lot of paper. Fraud is rampant and out of control in our economy both in Canada and in the USA.
In the mortgage business we see it happening nationwide. This is not minor fraud but well planned and implemented fraud cases.
The issue that bothers me and my colleagues is that the fraud that is uncovered has very little repercussion for the fraudster or person committing the fraud. It takes years to investigate and prosecute and normally is not found to be criminal.
This means it is a civil matter which even if found guilty and a judgement against them is provided by the courts there is little to no chance that the fraudster will be made to pay it back let alone go to jail.
It is frustrating for us. We help in the investigations and court cases as much as we are allowed and the legal system seems to just slap their hands.
Protecting your credit is critical
The easiest fraud is identity thief. This is where the fraudster steals your identity and your personal information. They then use this information to set up new credit accounts. Once done they buy as much as they can on that new account and then never make a payment.
The account goes into arrears and then collections before you even hear about it. When you are finally notified by the collection agency the fraudster is long gone. They sold whatever they bought and turned it to cash.
Protect your Identity
The best and cheapest way to protect your credit is to have each credit agency register a Fraud Warning on your account.
You can ask them to put a note on your account so that if there is an inquiry from a new account they must call you first before allowing the credit to be reviewed.
This simple step will stop fraudster’s cold once they realize every account must be authorized before being opened. They will stop working your account and go on to the next victim.
Another way to check your account in more detail is to use a monitoring service. These are offered through private services or through the credit agency itself. For more information on this go to our website www.fixmycreditinfo.com
Stop Phishing cold
What is Phishing? This tactic is when a fraudster pretends to be a well-known company to gather your personal information. Once you give this information they use it to create fake accounts under your name and then charge them to the maximum level. They then simply disappear and the creditor comes after you.
Don’t open emails that you do not recognize. Always confirm with your bank if you get an email about your account, better yet go in to your branch and ask if they sent the email. It may look very real but banks seldom send emails out of the blue they call and tell you what’s going on.
Try to avoid sharing your personal information, birth date, social insurance numbers and address. This is all that they need to begin their fraud.
Use password and change them regularly
Come on do you really need to hear this again? If you can password protect your computer, phone, I-pad or android DO IT? and try to make the password difficult.
Use numbers, letters and capital letters and symbols if possible. Make them at least 4 characters long, the longer the better.
Password protect everything you can. Keep a list of your passwords at home in a safe spot and update this list every quarter to keep it current.
Once you have passwords in place set up a time each year to change them at least annually if not semi annually. With critical information or accounts change every other month.
Never share your passwords with anyone and keep them safe.
Ignore and delete emails from strangers
If you do not recognize the sender then delete the e-mail. If it is important they will call or send another email in the future.
Most of these emails are virus and phishing attempts so ignore them.
If you get an email with a tempting message in the subject line then only a link to a website in the body of the email this should set of warning bells in your head. Never open these even if sent from a friend or colleague.
Always call that person or send an email to confirm they sent this link to you. If not than delete this email and label it as junk or spam.
If it seems too good to be true it likely is
This saying has been around for centuries and still holds true to this day. If you believe the offer is too good to be true then at least investigate it further before buying into it or providing information.
Always ask questions about what they want and why they want and need your information.
Learn to be suspicious, the internet has opened a whole new playing field for criminals and fraudsters. You need to protect your personal information just like you protect your cash.
Avoid being a victim by asking questions in all situations when someone requires your personal information. Check them out on Google if you do nothing else. Type in the offer or company name and then add scam or fraud to the end of the search request and see what pops up.
Be fraud aware