Identity theft, email and phone fraud – some tips – Part 2 of 2

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/


Ponzi Schemes
– These never seem to go out of style, mainly because greed is such a powerful emotion. Earl Jones from Quebec and Bernie Madoff from New York are just two of the more well-known practitioners of this deceptive art. My father I didn’t always agree on things (big surprise) but I did learn a basic truth of life: “if it sounds too good to be true, it is.” Perpetrators of Ponzi Schemes promise the world. High returns, special investments, not known to the general public, stable returns in all market cycles, limited product available, no risk, fully protected. There is no such investment; accept it. Regardless of pressure (peer or group including faith-based promotions unfortunately), do not bite. Madoff went on your several decades before everything collapsed. Remember, only the promoters get rich and only at your expense.

Banking Scams and Mail Theft – Many times bank scams begin as mail theft, unfortunately. Thieves target super mailboxes, apartment, condo and townhouse mail buildings and boxes and outgoing letterboxes. Anything of value is taken – and value means ID and account information. Whenever possible, consider electronic statements and payments. When having new cheques printed, pick them up at your financial institution, in person. When printing cheques, only use your initials and last name so that thieves don’t know if the account is in the name of a male or female. Check all your statements the DAY they arrive and report any errors or suspicious transactions immediately by phone and then follow-up in person with your branch or card company. My wife and I no longer even have our address or phone printed on cheques – just our initials and last name. We have been victimised twice through mail theft of cheques and one of the thieves was a real rocket-scientist and used our cheque to pay for her VISA bill, and had written her VISA number on the cheque!

Password Protection – As more and more of the economy moves to e-based commerce, remembering multiple passwords becomes a major concern. Writing them down (including your banking PIN) is definitely the wrong way to go. My memory sure isn’t perfect and I have to track about 30 different passwords of varying levels of complexity for my business and personal activities. The solution? There are several password utilities available (most are free or at least offer a basic free version) for download. My choice is LastPass. It saves my login information for all of the sites including passwords, PLUS it generates (if I ask it to do so) multi-character, multi-special character passwords at random. I can access it using one ID and one password from any internet-enabled computer in the world and nothing resides or stays on the computer being used – no cookies or any trace of its use. This way, I only have to remember one login ID and one password (mine is 15 characters in length and is a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers and special characters. Nothing is 100% secure, but I am comfortable with that level of protection.

Well, now what? Most of this is common-sense and nothing is overly complex. Take the time to review your personal and business security to ensure you are protected to the greatest extent possible. If you are a victim of fraud or identity theft, notify law enforcement immediately. The Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre (link below) is a source of excellent information and they even have a downloadable toolkit on how to deal with suspected ID theft and fraud. I recommend it highly!

With courtesy to http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/04/12/bc-id-theft-support-centre.html

and the Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre – http://idtheftsupportcentre.org/

TANSTAAFL – “free” email accounts – oh really??

Going back in time for this one – due to recent article in Vancouver Sun and other places about a pending class-action suit (at least the plaintiff is asking for CA status) regarding the “mining” of information from emails sent to and from so-called “free” email accounts.

So let’s get off the privacy bit for a minute – how many people REALLY believe that these accounts are made available out of the goodness of the hearts (if any) of these corporations?? Same goes for E-Post by the way!

Remember – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Browsers, search engines and all of the other so-called “free-ware” comes with the price that we leave footprints in the sand – crumbs on the forest floor (a la Hansel and Gretel) or whatever. Those bits of information are pure gold to these companies.

They indicate our taste in everything from food to entertainment to clothes to our political beliefs to where we bank to what we read and watch to the news we choose to believe to x-rated websites we view – if you use an internet connection to do ANYTHING there is a trail to and from you to everywhere you go – and back. I hope no-one is really under any illusions to the contrary – and parents need to be VERY aware of their childrens’ usage. BTW, this also applies to texting on cell-phones, iPhones etc. – if it is electronic, there is a trace – just keep that in mind all the time.

All of these corporations sell the information they gleen from our wanderings to other businesses so they can target us with their advertising and also help (at least in theory) designing and creating new products and services.

So what can you do about it – short answer, virtually nothing! There are some commercially available software packages that promise browsing anonymity – but just think about that for a minute – too good to be true?? YES. Nothing can screen you or your on-line presence from someone or some entity that is determined to find out what we are doing on the world of floating electrons.

Another issue is wi-fi security. Unfortunately, many people with wireless/wi-fi connections in their homes leave their networks unprotected completed – no security – or use such simple passwords like password admin administrator etc. – believe it or not. As a fun exercise, take your wireless/wi-fi enabled laptop or notebook with you in your car. Drive around with your wireless/wi-fi radar enabled, and you will see lots of SECURED access points but also a high number of UNSECURED ones. Internet cafes are wonderful and convenient, but remember, you are in a public place using a public connection.

So how is this all about TANSTAAFL – part of the cost we pay, although not in terms of absolute cash, we pay by giving up some measure of privacy. You need to determine the value and worth of your privacy!