Identity theft, email and phone fraud – some of the “tricks”
Written by Ian R. Whiting, CD, CFP, CLU, CH.F.C., FLMI(FS), ACS, AIAA, AALU, LSSWB, Contributing Editor
Website: www.ianrwhiting.com Blog: http://money.ca/you-and-your-money/ian-r-whiting/
This started out as a short, 500-word blog but unfortunately, this issue is so prevalent in the world today, it became two blogs! Today, it appears that the ID theft and related frauds are probably the fastest growing crimes in the world. In February 2008 (the last full study), over 1.7 million Canadians reported cases of ID theft or fraud and some estimates apparently put the value in excess of $100 million. Further information on this topic strongly suggests this figure is less than half the actual number of cases as people are too ashamed to report it, unfortunately. Here are some tips that can help you avoid the consequences of this aggressive trend.
Dumpster Diving – not glamorous, but effective. In this scenario, the fraudster (or some hired minion) goes through garbage cans and recycling bins looking for any account or personal information they can find. Old bank and credit card statements, cancelled cheques, those special “you-are-approved” credit offers, when merged with some modern technology, are a wealth of detail and a creative thief can use it for a variety of nefarious purposes. Invest in a shredder. Many are available for less than $50.00 (including taxes) and should be kept next to where you sort your mail. If a piece of “junk” mail has anything on it other than your name and address (which the company already knows), shred it – don’t just throw it in the garbage.
Phishing – Not to be found in Webster’s Dictionary, this is one of the new internet words that pepper the world today. This word means an e-mail message that looks like it was sent to you by your financial institution. Typically, it has the correct logo, a collection of what seem to be appropriate disclaimers and a request for verification of some personal information. The financial institutions with whom you deal do not need to “verify” any information they have on file and they would never do this via an email – only in person the next time you went to their office. Just mark any such emails as SPAM or JUNK and delete it immediately. Under no circumstances click on any of the links, nor should you reply to the email in any manner. If you follow the link, thieves will obtain enough information about you, and probably your accounts, to allow them to steal either or both your money or identity.
Pump and Dump – Nothing new here but they seem to be cropping up again. For this to work, a fraudster buys (or creates) a block of penny stocks and sends out millions of spam e-mails. Many times, they follow the email with a personal phone call. Both the e-mail and the phone calls are quite compelling and look like a hot tip. Buyer beware (caveat emptor for the Latin readers) because those that fall for this actually fuel a demand for the stocks the fraudster then re-sells at an even more inflated price. Ignore all unsolicited e-mails like this.
Vishing – Similar to phishing, the fraudsters call you directly and pose as an employee of your financial institution or other company with which you do business. Sometimes you will get an email that asks you to call a number – perhaps even a 1-800 number. With current technology, callers can disguise their identity and spoof your call display so it all looks legit! Ignore the calls and hang up.
Shoulder Surfing – Use of credit and debit cards is constantly increasing so your level of awareness needs to improve as well. If you see someone hovering nearby while you are entering your PIN – stop the transaction until they move away. If necessary, turn and face them and ask them to move away: don’t be shy! If someone gets your PIN and manages to skim your card (phoney machines used to steal digital information from your card) or pick your pocket or purse, your account is as good as empty. Some scammers are even using the digital cameras built in to every cell phone (or other e-device) to record your PIN key strokes while appearing to have a normal phone conversation. Shield the keypad when you are entering your PIN (use your other hand or your body as necessary). If you think someone could be aiming a cell phone camera at the PIN pad, stop until they leave or turn away.