The Internet is a place where you can do just about anything—shop, pay bills, book holidays, buy software/movies, and more. It is also a place for thieves to get a credit card in your name. Identity theft costs the Canadian economy $2.5 billion a year and the FBI calls it America’s fastest growing crime. So what should you do to avoid becoming a victim of this crime?
Purchase a paper shredder and shred all of your personal information, such as your bank statements and tax returns. Avoid placing these documents in your garbage at home or at the office as it may be easy for thieves to gather enough information about you to steal your identity.
Always be on guard. If you find an unsolicited credit card in the mail, cut it up and contact your credit card company immediately. Thieves usually apply for credit cards with stolen identities or sometimes they’ll steal your credit cards straight from your mailbox. Call credit card companies that issue credit cards on spec and tell them to take your name off their mailing list.
Avoid volunteering any information over the phone or online. There’s no such thing as a bank inspector that calls or emails you to verify how much you have in your account. Never offer your birth date, bank account number, credit card details, social insurance number, or any other details over the phone or via email unless you initiated the call. Always verify the numbers someone gives you. There are phishers that pose as collection agents and ask for your personal information to “verify they’ve got the right file.”
Be aware of where and when and how much you spend on your credit cards and debit cards. Online banking is an easy way to do this. Simply go online every week to assess your accounts and spending habits. Criminals don’t need to steal your credit cards to get your identity as they can “skim” it by accessing the devices that you use to make transactions at a store, gas station, or restaurant. Chips on cards are now helping to prevent credit card fraud.
If your computer starts acting strangely or slows down dramatically, get it checked out immediately. Your computer may have been infected with a virus that can track every site you’ve visited and record what you type. Run a virus spyware scan or take your computer to your local Future Shop, Best Buy, or Staples. Ensure that you install the latest anti-virus and spyware detection tools to prevent viruses from attacking your computer.
If you need to make purchases on the Internet, consider getting another credit card with a very small limit. Never raise that limit. That way if something ever happens, it minimizes the potential issues and mess that needs to be cleaned up afterwards.