Protecting Yourself From Fraud

Posted on Monday 01 September 2014


Every year, Canadians lose millions of dollars in credit and debit card fraud. 2013 saw $29.5 million in debit card fraud alone. However, it only takes a few simple precautions to reduce your risk of fraud. In this article, we’ll show you how to protect yourself from such fraudulent activities.

Protect Your Card Details

Be careful when you’re using ATMs and PIN machines, because this is where thieves tend to strike.

Remain alert. When entering your PIN, shield it with your body and your other hand, taking note of anyone that seems to be standing too close to you. A thief may read your PIN over your shoulder as you enter it and then steal your card from you as you leave.

Even if you are careful about shielding your PIN code when you type it, you can undo all of that work by not keeping it sufficiently secret. Next thing you know you're declaring bankruptcy because your money got stolen.

Here are some good ways to keep your PIN safe.

  • Don’t tell anybody your PIN.
  • Pick a unique PIN code that isn’t based on a birthday or commonly-used number sequence.
  • Memorize it instead of keeping it written on a note.

A surprising number of people stash their PIN number in their wallet for easy reference. This is extremely risky, because if a thief steals your wallet, they will then have both your card and your PIN number, giving them full access to your funds. If this happens, banks might decide that you didn’t protect your card details adequately and refuse to refund your stolen money. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Your information can also be stolen at grocery stores or gift shops if an employee swipes your card through a fake card reader. A clerk might swipe twice: once in the actual payment device, and once in a device that steals your card details. Whenever possible, do the transaction yourself.

In any case, never allow your card to leave your sight. Or someone might use it to start buying stocks.

Also protect your personal information, such as your mother’s maiden name, birthday, childhood pet, and the street you grew up on. Don’t let these details drop in casual conversation with strangers—criminals can use stolen personal details to empty your bank accounts and take out credit cards and loans under your name.

If you suspect that your card information has been stolen:

  • Change your PIN immediately
  • Freeze your card
  • Contact your bank to check on your recent transactions

In a worst case scenario, the safest possible route is to cancel your card and order a new one.

Protecting Your Card Details Online

Make sure that you only access your bank account from your private computer using a secured internet connection. Using public computers or a public internet connection makes it easier for thieves to steal your personal information. Once they have your information, they can break into your online banking accounts and credit card logins.

Keep your computer’s security up to date to prevent spyware from stealing your bank details. Use unique and secure passwords for all of your online accounts, and memorize them instead of writing them down.

Be wary of any emails containing links, especially emails purporting to be from your bank. Your bank will never ask you for sensitive information through email. Fraudsters prey on panicked consumers; if any email asks for details or makes threats, disregard or report it.

Criminals may attempt to steal your personal information and bank details through phishing scams. Phishing websites can look identical to the real thing, so instead of clicking on the link, enter your bank’s website address manually.

Check Your Financial Records Regularly

Reviewing your bank statements and credit reports are both excellent ways of preventing fraud.

You can use your monthly bank statements to track your spending. Not only does this help you budget more tightly, it also helps you keep an eye out for fraudulent activity. Look for any transaction you can’t account for, especially large withdrawals. This could be a sign of fraud.

In addition to bank statements, your credit report is one of the most important tools you have in preventing fraud. Credit reports provide details on every source of credit you have. Equifax and TransUnion both provide reports for free. All you have to do is submit a form by post, and they will mail a report back to you.

Once you get a credit report, here’s what to look for.

  • Credit cards or bank loans you don’t know about. If you see any account that you don’t remember opening, it’s a sign of fraud.
  • Missing transactions. If you make a credit card transaction and it doesn’t appear on your statement, your credit information may have been stolen by a fake card reader.

If you notice fraud has been committed, contact the national credit bureaus to have fraud alerts placed on your credit report. You should also contact your bank, credit card companies, and anyone you have a loan with for further advice.

Keep a close eye on your financial statements for the next few months to make sure no further fraudulent activity appears.

Report any suspected fraud to your local police department and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. In addition to protecting your finances, contacting the authorities helps bring fraudsters to justice.

After reporting the fraud, banks may refund the money that was stolen and remove the fraudster’s activity from your credit report.

There are many ways to protect yourself from fraud. The key to all of them is to act quickly.