By Const. Thomas DE ROOS
With the Christmas season come and gone and everyone getting back to life as normal we tend to fall back into our normal routines. I know we have all heard it before but there is no better time than now to refresh the mind and talk about fraud. With the slow down in the economy criminals are looking for ways to have easy access to money. One of the ways criminals accomplish this is through fraud. There are many different fraud schemes circulating around. Some of the more popularones currently are credit card fraud, cheque fraud, and telephone scams. With the new technology in credit card development fraud has become more difficult but thieves have adjusted their ways and have found loopholes.
How to protect yourself
When committing fraud thieves look for the easiest targets, like a predator preying on the weak in a herd. The weaker the prey the easier it becomes to be a victim of fraud. Thieves will target anyone regardless of their age or social status, and even well educated people have been caught. In order to combat fraud one needs to be able to have strong measures in place and to be vigilant.
1. Be identity savvy
Be aware of where your credit cards and identification is at all times. If you notice anything missing report it immediately to the banks, credit card companies, and the police. Companies will disable cards and reissue new cards at no cost to their clients. With identification the police are able to flag the identification.
2. Reduce cheque use.
Cheque use is still a common tool for monetary transactions. If possible make transactions with another form of payment when face-to-face. Avoid sending cheques by mail if at all possible. If you need to make a transaction by cheque make sure you notify whoever your sending the cheque to and follow up with them to make sure it arrived. In many instances the issuer never followed up and never knew the cheques were compromised.
3. Change passwords and PINs regularly
When using debit or credit cards with chip and tap technology, the best advice I can give is to change you pin on a regular basis and disable the tap feature. This prevents unauthorized purchases on the card and protects your money. When a card does become compromised it prevents thieves having use of the card. When changing your pin do not use obvious combinations for ease of remembering, as these tend to be the first combinations thieves will try.
4. Be wary of unusual transactions.
Be wary of unusual offers or requests. Generally these are too-good-to-be-true offers like “you have inherited a large sum of money but to secure the funds we require you to send a deposit first. “ Never agree to conduct financial transactions on behalf of strangers either.
5. Shred important documents.
Shred important documents that contain sensitive information such as bank and credit card statements, old tax returns,receipts, even junk mail that has your address on it before disposing of them. This prevents your sensitive information from being exposed to thieving eyes.
6. Have a conversation about fraud.
Talk to family members and friends about fraud. The more aware people are about fraud the better protected they are.Another important piece to the conversation should be letting your loved ones know they can talk about any problems they encounter. We all become embarrassed when we have become the victim of these scams and this tends to lead to further vulnerability.
7. Keep personal information personal.
Finally, Keep your personal information personal. Don’t give out personal information over the phone, through email or over the Internet unless you initiated the contact and know whom you’re dealing with. Don’t include personal information like credit card details in regular, unencrypted email or enter it on an unencrypted website as your information won’t be secure.
8. Know where your documents are.
Keep important documents that are rarely used such as Social Insurance Numbers, passports, and birth certificates locked up in a secure location. Identification that is used more often should not be left in vehicles when they are unoccupied. This makes easy targets for thieves.
If you have discovered you have become the victim of fraud the best thing you can do is report it. We may not be able to recover the loss but we can warn others and allows us to keep tabs on the scams that are circulating. Like a herd that sticks together we can be stronger together as a community in the prevention of fraud. For more information come have a chat at the Rimbey detachment or go online, there are lots of websites with information about how to protect yourself and your loved ones from fraud,
Together we can reduce fraudulent thefts in our communities.