Protect yourself and your life savings from scammers

Protect yourself and your life savings  from scammers
Dian Cohen (Photo : Courtesy)

It’s the Christmas season – that always brings out the best and worst of human behavior. This year, stealing has become almost as epidemic as COVID – Since March, when Canada closed its borders and much of the country went into lockdown, more Canadians are using the internet to bank, shop, socialize, and work remotely. In the process, more of their personal data is ending up online for criminals to prey on. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, so far this year Canadians have reported losses of close to $100 million.
None of us is immune to scammers, whether they phone, text, email or snail mail. Older people who may be less suspicious are particularly susceptible.
Here are the minimum things to do to protect yourself.
• Get an anti-virus program for all the devices you use to get on the internet.
• Know that the federal government (CRA) or the Québec government (Revenu Québec) will never phone you regarding a problem with your account. They use Canada Post.
• Know that your bank will never phone you to update your name, address, phone, credit card number or anything else. If someone phones and leaves you a message “from the bank” with a phone number, never call that number back. Call the number on the back of your credit or debit card and speak to the Security Department.
• Never respond to texts that refer to your bank account or your S.I.N number – once you open the text, the scammers might have hacked your computer.
• Use strong passwords. At least 12 characters, includes numbers, symbols & capital letters.
• Never, never, never put all your passwords in a file in your computer. Print it out, put it somewhere safe, and delete it from your computer.
• Ask your bank once a year to print you out an updated Credit Bureau report, either from Equifax or TransUnion. It should be free, and this will show all activity on your file.
• Never respond to someone who phones, emails or texts you that a friend or family member had an emergency and needs money. Even if they use a name of a person you know, check it out for yourself.
• Never respond to a call from someone who says s/he is from a computer company, tells you that says something is wrong with your computer and they can fix it if you give them control. Just hang up.
• Never get pressured into acting immediately. Threatening to arrest you or sue you or take away your driver’s license is designed to make you act. Just hang up.
• Don’t share personal stuff on social media – your birthday, your interests, where you work – that’s a gold mine for scammers trying to steal your identity.
• Check your privacy settings – by default, your profile may be public. Change it.
• Be very careful when buying and selling stuff online.
• Never save your payment information online.
• Don’t recycle your identity — Think about all the paper mail you receive with financial information: bills, tax documents, bank statements, credit card statements. Don’t put them in the recycling bin as is – scammers collect that stuff. Instead, buy a crosscut shredder. It will set you back about $75, but it will be one of your best investments ever.
• Block unwanted calls on Canada’s National Do Not Call List (
• Share this list with all your friends.
• Never let down your guard!
I can remember back to a simpler time when we never even locked our doors at night. Unhappily this is not the world we live in today.
Dian Cohen is an economist and a founding organizer of the Massawippi Valley Health Centre.

For full story and others, subscribe now.

Share this article