Unfortunately, identity theft and fraud are among the fastest growing crimes in the world. In 2012, more than 120,000 calls were received and more than 40,000 e-mail messages each month were reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre! In 2011, credit card fraud alone exceeded $436 million! By contrast, in 2007, TOTAL fraud losses were $14 million. There are many more unreported incidents.
Phishing – An e-mail message that appears to have been sent by a financial institution with which you have business dealings asking for verification of various pieces of information. When you follow the hotlink and answer the questions, the thieves get enough information about you and your accounts to steal your money and perhaps your identity. The financial institutions you deal with do not need to “verify” the information they already have on you. Immediately delete all such emails. Report it immediately to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre – https://www.antifraudcentre.ca, by phone to 1.888.495.8501 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org (CAFC) and your local law enforcement department.
Vishing – Similar to phishing above, but the fraudsters call you directly and pose as an employee of a financial institution or direct you by e-mail to call a number. They can even disguise call display so that it looks like the call may be legitimate. Your financial institution does not make calls like these. Ignore the call, hang up and report it to the CAFC and law enforcement.
Pharming – This is a term used to describe what a fraudster or hacker does to redirect traffic from a legitimate website to a fraudulent website without the victim knowing it. The scammer then harvests the data entered by the victim, thus the play on words – farming. Report such items to the CAFC and law enforcement.
Spoofing – This is the term used when a fraudster uses software or some other internet tool that allows the fraudster to mask their real identity by displaying a fake e-mail address or name and telephone number on your computer or telephone. It is meant to both hide who they really are and to trick you into thinking you are either dealing with a reputable business or person but also to give you the impression the call or message is coming from somewhere other than the actual location. Your telephone or Internet service provider have the ability to determine the true IP (Internet Protocol) address or telephone number but they must be informed quickly. They usually only provide this information to law enforcement in the course of an official investigation. Report to the CAFC and local law enforcement.
Shoulder Surfing – Someone hovering nearby while you are entering the PIN for your bank or credit card. If they get your PIN and skim your card (phoney machines used to steal your digital information) or pick your pocket or purse, they can clean out your bank account in no time. They may even use the digital camera feature of a cell phone. Beware of people around you that may be able to view your PIN as you enter it on a keypad. Shield the keypad with your other hand or your body. If someone is aiming a cell phone in your direction when using your cards, block the view of your card and stop the transaction until they’re gone.
Dumpster Diving – An information thief goes through garbage or recycling bins looking for account information. With an old bank or credit card statement, cancelled cheques, discarded junk mail credit card offers and some over-the-counter technology, a thief can open an account in your name and make off with the money. It may take you years to clear your good name. Shred all old bank and credit card statements and any pre-approved credit card offers you receive in the mail. It’s a good idea to do this for any papers you have that contain any information about you other than name and address.
Pump and Dump – A fraudster buys a block of low priced penny stocks and sends out millions of spam e-mails. The e-mails can be quite compelling and look like a hot tip. Those that fall for this actually fuel a demand for the stocks that the fraudster sells at an inflated price, sticking the new buyer with a loss. Ignore all such emails. A good spam filter should block most for you. In addition, always report such incidents to the CAFC, local law enforcement and your provincial securities commission.
If you are a victim of fraud or identity theft, always notify law enforcement immediately and then notify credit bureaus and card issuers as appropriate.
My next blog will go through some other common scams that use fraud and identity theft – sometimes together, sometimes separately, but the damages can be horrendous.
With courtesy to Wikipedia, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the Canadian Competition Bureau and the Globe & Mail.