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Many Canadians can’t tell if they’re victim of identity theft: Survey

October 28th, 2020  |  Personal Finance

As the world grapples with the second wave of COVID-19, it’s also facing a growing threat of online fraud and identity theft.

But few Canadians recognize when they have become a victim of a fraudster, according to a recent survey conducted by one insurer reported in Insurance Business Canada. Newfoundland-based Johnson Insurance found 48 per cent of Canadian respondents were unable to identify all the warning signs they had become a victim of identity theft when provided with a list of indicators.

Direct financial warning signs appeared to be easier to spot, the survey found. Thirty-six per cent recognizes such things as unexplained withdrawals or charges on their accounts while 33 per cent did when they got bills for services they didn’t receive.

But many Canadians had difficulty detecting indirect signs, including:

  • Only 11 per cent recognized the indicator of a health plan that won’t cover them because their medical records show a condition that they do not have, or only 12 per cent picked up on when a health plan showed they had reached their benefit limit despite not claiming as much as would be necessary.
  • Not receiving expected bills or other mail (12 per cent)
  • If a creditor contacts them to approve or deny credit that they did not apply for (25 per cent)

More suspicious texts

The same survey did reveal some Canadians are aware that the threat of identity theft and fraud has risen during the pandemic. It revealed that 27 per cent of respondents have noticed an increase in suspicious COVID-19-related activity linked to fraudulent websites and online advertisements. Another 23 per cent have noticed an increase in suspicious emails, while 20 per cent observed more suspicious text messages or phone calls.

COVID-19 has created new opportunities for fraud and Identity theft. Identity thieves will use their victim’s personal information to apply for a variety of services, loans, renting apartments, and more. There have already been media reports of scammers who have applied for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) on their victim’s behalf. Other reports involve threatening messages to repay taxes. It’s important to note the government and financial institutions will never solicit personal or financial information by text, email, or messages.

RELATED READING: Sudbury woman says she's victim of CERB identity fraud

According to Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, there are cases of COVID-19 maps that infect devices with malware, phishing emails with malicious links and attachments, and spoofed COVID-19 websites. Fraudsters are also phoning individuals to tell them that they have tested positive for the disease and need to provide their banking information.

The Government of Canada is urging Canadians to be cyber safe during the pandemic. They recommend three things people can do including:

  • Stay informed about COVID-19. Educate yourself by following updates from official, verified government websites and social media accounts to get reliable information. The best way to do this is to follow updates from official, verified government social media accounts and websites to get reliable information. Visit the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security for additional resources.
  • Avoid phishing scams. Scammers are exploiting the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 to bilk innocent Canadian out of cash, information, and their identities. These scams are designed to trick Canadians into giving out information they normally wouldn’t. This includes anything from phone calls falsely claiming to be fundraising for COVID-19 relief efforts to fake e-mails claiming items will be shipped differently. Protect yourself by knowing the signs of a phishing scam. Any message about COVID-19 should first be viewed with skepticism.
  • Protect your devices – Since more of us have been working from home, it’s even more important to ensure your devices are secure. This is even more important if you work in industries that require special amounts of privacy and discretion. Consider the devices in your home that may pose a potential risk such as TVs, smart devices, and gaming systems.

The Centre for Cyber Security recommends the following five steps you can take right now to shore up your defenses:

1) Be on guard. Know how to spot phishing messages and don’t click on any suspicious links.

2) Secure your social media and email accounts. Review all your privacy and security settings. Make sure the answers to your security questions are known only to you.

3) Apply updates to your computer, mobile devices, and applications. They contain important security updates.

4) Store data securely. Use anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer. Back up vital personal information and files, possibly with a cloud service provider.

5) Practice good password etiquette. Never share your password or use the same one on multiple accounts, especially those which contain personal or banking information.

If you become aware of or have been the victim of fraud or cybercrime, including COVID-19 scams and cyber threats, contact your local police and report online to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Fraud Reporting System. You can also talk to your broker about coverage for identity theft expenses. Remember, your identity is valuable and worth protecting!

RELATED READING:Cybercriminals target employees working from home

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