Scams come in all shapes and sizes—from an email claiming to offer money in exchange for your banking details, to a phone call threatening jail time for not paying taxes. While many of these scammers are trying to steal your money, some may be trying to collect personal information, such as a Social Insurance Number (SIN), that will allow them to steal your identity. Make sure you stay up-to-date with the latest scams and tips to protect your identity.
Watch for the red flags
Most scams will have a red flag that will tip you off. Here are a few common ones to watch out for:
1. Someone claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and threatens you with jail time.
The CRA will not use threatening language, threaten arrest, contact you via text message or communicate financial information via email. Visit the CRA website to see what you can expect when the CRA contacts you and what methods they use.
2. Someone asks for remote access to your computer to install anti-virus software.
Never give remote access to your computer to someone who contacts you over phone or email if you didn’t initiate contact. Once they have access, they can download a virus and gain access to your passwords and personal information.
3. You’re asked to make a payment with gift cards or prepaid credit cards.
No official agency or company will ask you to pay any outstanding debts in gift cards or prepaid credit cards.
4. You’re asked to give money to a someone in trouble.
Scammers will contact you saying a loved one, often a grandchild, is in trouble and needs money immediately. Don’t be fooled if they seem to know a lot of personal information about the person—they’ve done their research.
5. You get a call or message asking for your personal or banking information.
Never give out your personal information such as your SIN, credit card number, bank account information, or passport number unless you initiated the conversation.
New COVID-19 related scams
Scammers are trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak by creating new ways to steal your money and personal information. Here are a few examples of common COVID-19 related scams to watch out for, as identified by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre:1
Unauthorized or fraudulent charities requesting money for victims, products, or research. Verify if the charity is legitimate with the Canadian Revenue Agency’s list of charities before making any donations.
High-priced or low-quality products purchased in bulk by consumers and resold for profit.
Questionable offers such as a miracle COVID-19 cure, herbal remedies, vaccinations or expedited testing.
Duct cleaning or heating companies offering a special filter or cleaning filter to remove COVID-19 from the air.
Hydro companies threatening to disconnect power for non-payment.
Continue to check the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website to keep up-to-date on the latest scams.
Steps to keep your information safe
If you’re responding to a phone call, first check that the phone number looks legitimate. Many scammers can make phone numbers appear as though they’re from your bank or the RCMP. If you’re unsure, hang up and call the organization back directly using their official phone number to confirm if the call was legitimate.
If you’re responding to an email, check that the sender’s email address looks legitimate by hovering over the sender’s name—the display name may look legitimate, the domain can be the giveaway. The domain name, or the part of the email address that follows the @ symbol, should match the organization. For example, an email from PayPal would likely end with @paypal.com, not firstname.lastname@example.org. An email coming from inside your organization should match your organization’s domain as well.
If you think an email is suspicious, hover over any links to inspect the website URL. For example, if a link in an email from Netflix takes you anywhere else than Netflix.com, it’s likely a scam. If you’re unsure, you can paste the link into a link checker like urlvoid.com and the service will help detect potentially malicious websites. Never open attachments or click suspicious links in emails unless you know they are safe.
Make sure you’re protected
Identity theft protection as a part of your home insurance policy can help if your identity is stolen, covering expenses related to recovering your identity, a case worker to guide you through the process, 24/7 credit bureau monitoring and any financial loss you experience as a result. If you’re unsure if identity theft coverage is included in your home insurance policy, your insurer can clarify or add the coverage for you.
If you want to learn more or add identity theft coverage to your home insurance policy, contact an OTIP broker today at 1-800-267-6847.
1. Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre