Avoid Being a Victim – Protect Yourself

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 9:45 am, Posted by Absolute Destruction

Unfortunately, identity theft is still the fastest growing non-violent crime in Canada. As much as we wish it weren’t so, the numbers can’t lie. According to the latest Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s Annual Statistical Report, mass marketing fraud has ballooned in 2014. Over 13,000 people fell victim to mail fraud, internet phishing, and phone scams and, as a result, collectively lost over $74 billion. As we await the next Annual Statistical Report for 2015, we want to provide you with the tools to prevent becoming a victim of fraud. We’ve created a quick and easy guide to protecting your personal information to keep yourself from becoming a statistic in 2016.

Digital Security

Between e-banking, online investments, e-transfers, and online shopping, a lot of your financial information is on the Internet. It’s important that you take the appropriate steps to keep your information safe from prying eyes. Your first step is to arm yourself with strong, uncrackable passwords. That means the same password you’ve had for all of your accounts since Y2K could use some updating. A password should be a combination of numbers and letters that no one else could guess. Whatever you do, do not include birthdates, phone numbers, parts of your SIN, or other numerical sequences that people could easily figure out. It’s also a good idea to stay away from codes like ‘password’ or your child’s name. If you have trouble thinking of a secure password on your own, there are programs that will generate one for you, like the Norton Password Generator or the Vigère Cipher. Either on your own or with the help of these programs create new passwords for all of your online profiles, ensuring never to use the same one twice.

The computer you use to access these profiles should be as secure as your passwords. Without appropriate security, your computer is susceptible to the viruses, spyware, and keyloggers that identity thieves employ to steal your personal information. This malware usually acts silently, so you won’t know that they’ve located your passwords until it’s too late. Don’t risk anything; update your firewalls and employ Microsoft’s free virus protection. It’s also a good idea to download an anti-malware and anti-spyware program, like McAfee or Norton Anti-Virus, onto your computer.

Even with beefed up security, your computer ends up storing a lot of your personal information. Though it will be safe from online thieves, all of its saved data can be accessed in person. A particularly tech savvy individual (as most identity thieves are) can even retrieve the information you thought you permanently deleted from your hard drive. That’s why it’s so important to use our electronic data services on all of your obsolete computers, tablets, external hard drives, and memory sticks. Our mobile shredders will incinerate their motherboards so it’s physically impossible to recover a single byte of information. As an added bonus, we take care of its recycling too – a feat that isn’t easy for the average homeowner as most cities in the GTA won’t accept electronics in their pick up.

Physical Security

Though we do a lot online, most of our day-to-day activities still occur in the real world. It’s important when you make in-person transactions and accept mail that you’re careful with your personal information. Be aware of the POS unit or ATM that you’re using. Only shop from trusted business owners and avoid those machines that look like they’ve been tampered with. Whenever you have to enter your PIN, be sure to guard the keypad as you enter in your password. It might seem paranoid, but this action will save you from people who mean to watch you enter your password, just as it will block your code from any cameras purposefully installed to watch your sequence.

When you’re shopping in the neighbourhood, your whole identity doesn’t have to come for the ride. Make sure only the necessary credit and debit cards and any cash you need are in your wallet. Leave behind your SIN, OHIP card, passport, and any other means of identification that carry your personal information.

You might not get a lot of snail mail anymore, as more banks and cell phone providers go paperless, but you still will receive personal material in your mail box. It’s the only way to get a new credit card, receive T4s, or get a new debit card (depending on your banking institution). Some of the mass marketing fraud identified in 2014’s report was mail theft, as thieves rerouted important mail with a simple change of address. It’s important, then, to be aware of your mailbox and know if and when you’re expecting something. If a credit card doesn’t show up within the time allotted, then you can alert your bank and rule out any foul play.

Any mail that you do receive containing financial information, account numbers, or personal information should then be shredded using our residential document destruction services. It can be scheduled for a one-time pickup or a regular appointment every week or month. We can coordinate it with any of our electronic data services that you require, so we can maximize the effect of our time at your home. Just give us a call and we can schedule a convenient time for your first (or next) pick up! When you take care with your digital and physical information, you significantly cut down your chances of ever becoming a victim of identity theft.

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