Scams and Online Safety: Tips from an Expert
The other day I received a phone call from a “virus software company” saying my computer had been compromised. They wanted access to my computer to fix the problem and would need my various logins and passwords. And you know what? I almost gave it to them! I’d heard about these sorts of scams, consider myself an intelligent individual, and still, I almost gave out this personal information. You know what stopped me? The fact that they called my house phone and not my cell phone which is the contact number I always provide.
In a world where everything is online, where we are trying to protect ourselves but still want to see the good, the possibility or the hope in different situations, what do you do? How do you know when to move forward and when to retreat?
To learn more, we searched out expert advice from Constable Yvette Logan of the Peel Regional Police. And she had lots of information to offer.
Scams to keep on your radar
Knowing the types of scams out there and how they are conducted will put you in a better position of recognizing and handling a scammer.
“There are various scams coming through right now, some are online and some off. The CRA scam is a popular phone scam right now that is very aggressive and while seniors aren’t necessarily targeted, they do appear to be falling victim to this one more than others due to fear and harassment. In this scam the caller says the police are on the way to their house and will arrest them if they do not pay money owed. It is important that seniors know the CRA will not phone you, so if you do receive a call from someone saying they are with the CRA, hang up,” says Cst. Logan.
Another form of fraud to watch out for is the 419 scam in which you receive an email from someone overseas, saying if you help them out by giving one sum (or a few sums) of money that they will give you thousands or even millions of dollars in return. This scam has been around for a long time because it does work. Luckily, Cst. Logan gave us some red flags to watch out for.
Common red flags
Of course the old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” carries a lot of weight. But we know how easy it is to want to believe something is true, or the flip side, fear that if we don’t take action we will miss out. If you find yourself hesitating, questioning or simply wanting some extra reassurance, Cst. Logan offers some great insight. Here are 3 things she says to be weary of.
- Act Now
“Whenever someone tries to rush you into something, if they say it is one day only or you have to take action right now, take this as a red flag. Especially if they contacted you. There should always be the option to follow-up on your own.”
- Grammar and Spelling
“Grammar and spelling are big red flags because a lot of these online scams are translated from other languages. A large company will not send out correspondence without it being read numerous times for spelling and grammar.”
- Link Clicks & Forms
“If you receive an email asking you to click on a link and enter personal information, don’t. No legitimate business will ask you to click on a link and add personal information, not the bank, not the government. If anything, you would be asked to go to their website on your own accord and sign up or update information from there.”
A timely example of this kind of fraud is the possible Canada Post strike. Emails are being sent out saying bills will not be delivered so click on this link to have it delivered to you electronically. Again, do not click on the link. It is up to consumers to set that up themselves. Of course, businesses that have your email address may send out emails recommending you set up electronic payments through your online banking system, but they will not give you forms to fill out.
Protecting your accounts
When it comes to online banking, shopping, and networking, many sites will offer you the option to save your account number or login in an attempt to make things easier for you. The issue here, especially with banking and online shopping sites, is most passwords are pretty easy to guess, with many of us resorting to 123abc or some variation of that. Cst. Logan recommends never saving account numbers and strengthening passwords by inserting characters – for example, instead of Smith use $mith.
While online scams and fraud may seem scary, there are many ways to protect yourself and many more benefits that can come from being online than off. Stay tuned for our follow-up blog on the Benefits of Going Online.
Written by Christine Tompa for Amintro, the social club designed exclusively for those 50+ looking to find new opportunities and create new social circles. We take online safety very seriously and you can find more tips and information on this topic in our Safety Guidelines. And if you do find yourself on the receiving end of a scam call your local police department to report it.