Senior Protection Guide - Canada

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Senior Protection Guide - Canada

  1. 1. Seniors Identity Theft Protection Guide 1.866.436.5461 www.idtheftsupportcentre.org
  2. 2. Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre Preventing Identity Theft: A Guide for Seniors Page • Introduction 1 • What Is Identity Theft 1 • What Do Identity Thieves Want? 2 • How Do Identity Thieves Get Information About Their Victims? 2 • How Do Identity Thieves Use This Information To Commit Identity Fraud? 3 • Who Are Identity Thieves? 4 • Reducing The Risk: How Can I Avoid Becoming A Victim? 4 • Caregivers and Powers of Attorney 4 • At Home 4 • Out And About 5 • Transacting With Other People And Business 5 • Protecting Your Computer 6 • Online Activity 6 • Online Shopping 7 • Smartphones 7 • Preventing Identity Theft: Tips for Seniors 8 Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre 1.866.436.5461 www.idtheftsupportcentre.org entity theft
  3. 3. Introduction What is identity theft? Identity theft is not confined to any particular demographic group - people of all ages can become victims. But just as with other forms of fraud and financial exploitation, seniors may be targeted by identity thieves because they are seen as vulnerable and potentially lucrative targets. It is therefore important that seniors and those who may be caring for them are aware of the danger of identity theft and the ways it is perpetrated, and that they take the necessary precautions to avoid it. We use the term “identity theft” to mean not just the stealing of personal information, but also the fraudulent use of that information to access your bank account, credit card or other account without your authorization, to obtain loans, services, government benefits, employment or other benefits in your name, or to evade authorities by assuming your identity. Both “identity theft” and “identity fraud” are criminal offences in Canada. Related activities such as redirecting mail and selling fraudulent identity documents are also criminal offences. Older adults living in residential facilities or under the care of someone else are at particular risk because the caretakers have access to the senior’s personal records. This creates a situation which allows unscrupulous individuals to exploit those in their care. If you are a friend or family member concerned about potential exploitation of an elderly person, the following information and advice will be helpful. Note: Seniors need to take the same precautions as everyone else against identity theft. This ‘Guide for Seniors’ replicates information provided in CITSC’s general Guide to Preventing Identity Theft and provides a few more tips specific to the elderly. 1 The damage to victims of identity theft varies widely, from mere inconvenience such as having to replace a credit card, to financial and personal devastation. Victims may even be arrested for crimes committed by an impostor. Given the potential consequences of identity theft, it is worth making an effort to avoid becoming a victim.
  4. 4. What do identity thieves want? Most identity thieves want money. Some want employment or free services. Others want to evade authorities. In all cases, identity thieves pretend to be other people in order to achieve their goals. The types of information most useful to identity thieves are: 1. Full Name and Address 2. Date of birth 3. Social Insurance Number 4. Drivers Licence number 5. Passport number 6. Other government-issued ID numbers 7. Student ID numbers 8. Credit card, debit card, bank account and other financial account numbers 9. Typical passwords or security question answers – e.g., mother’s maiden name 10. Information about your family, work and personal life How do identity thieves get information about their victims? Identity thieves use many methods to gather personal information about their victims that they can then use to commit identity fraud. These methods include: 1. Stealing your wallet, purse, cheques or mail 2. Gathering information from records in your home 3. Sifting through your trash to find useful information such as account details 4. Posing as a legitimate company by email, over the phone or at your door and asking you for your account information (this is called “pretexting”, or if done by email, “phishing”) 5. Taking your credit card or debit card out of your sight and “skimming” it (i.e, capturing the information on it via a special device) 6. Watching you enter your pin or password 7. Eavesdropping on insecure wireless communications 8. Gathering information about you from social networking sites, blogs, online ‘payday loan’ applications, and other online sources 9. Hacking into your computer via a virus or other method 2
  5. 5. 10. Surreptitiously installing spyware on your computer that gathers information such as your passwords Thieves can also gather your information from other sources that you cannot control, such as: 1. The garbage of corporations with whom you do business or government agencies 2. The computers and databases of corporations and governments 3. Unintentional security breaches of corporations and governments 4. Websites that have information about you posted on them 5. Employees of corporations or government who are fooled into providing your information to the imposter 6. Employees of corporations or government who are part of a criminal ring or who are bribed to provide your information to criminals How do identity thieves use this information to commit identity fraud? Once they have enough information to pretend to be you, identity thieves can do all sorts of damage to you and your financial and personal reputation. Such damage includes (but is not limited to): 1. Making purchases on your credit card or debit card (bank account) 2. Using, altering, or copying your cheques and drawing money from your bank account 3. Opening up new credit card, cell phone or other accounts in your name and running up bills without paying them 4. Sending a change of address to creditors to divert your mail so that you don’t notice the unauthorized bills mounting up 5. Obtaining loans (even mortgages!) In your name 6. Transferring title to property from you to them 7. Getting a tax refund or other benefit in your name 8. Leasing an apartment in your name or getting a job in your name 9. Pretending to be you when arrested by police 3
  6. 6. Who are identity thieves? Just as there is no typical victim of identity theft, people who engage in this criminal activity range from family members with no criminal history to international crime organizations. Depending on the nature of the crime, the fraudster could be someone you know or an anonymous criminal operating from another part of the world. In the case of the elderly, especially those reliant on others for their care, there is a higher than normal risk of caregivers, family members or others with access to the senior’s records to take advantage of the elderly person. The perpetrators may even rationalize such exploitation (e.g., obtaining credit in the elderly person’s name) on the grounds that they are somehow entitled to the funds. REDUCING THE RISK: How can I avoid becoming a victim? There are many things that seniors and their caregivers can do to minimize the risk of identity theft. Caregivers and Powers of Attorney 1. Before hiring a caregiver, do a thorough background check (including a police check and at least three reference checks) and have trusted friends or family help make the hiring decision. 2. Do not leave cheques or other financial documents lying around the home. 3. When an elderly person becomes unable to manage his or her own finances, ensure that a financial Power of Attorney is provided to someone who is 100% trustworthy. At Home 1. Keep cheques and identification documents in a safe (preferably locked) place at home and only take them with you when you need them. Consider storing important documents that you use infrequently in a safety deposit box at a bank. Keep copies of your passport, birth certificate and other government-issued ID in separate files (for reference if you lose the original). 2. Never leave strangers unattended in your home. 3. If you have an unsecured mailbox, pick up your mail as soon as possible after delivery. If you are going away, stop delivery or arrange for someone to pick up your mail. 4. Be aware of when your bills normally arrive in the mail and if they don’t arrive, contact the bank or creditor and find out what happened. 5. Review your bank and credit card statements carefully when they arrive and immediately report any activity you do not recognize as your own. 6. Keep financial records in a safe, secure place. Don’t leave them lying around the house. 7. Shred (or burn) old records once you know that you won’t need them for tax or 4
  7. 7. other purposes. Use a cross-shredder to ensure that thieves cannot piece together any information from the garbage. 8. Order a copy of your credit file from the two Canadian credit bureaus (Equifax and TransUnion) annually and review it carefully to confirm that no one has been applying for credit or incurring debts in your name. Out and About 1. Don’t carry identification documents (e.g., birth certificate, passport, SIN card, health card) or blank cheques in your wallet, purse or otherwise with you unless you need them. Checklist of documents you should keep secure • Credit card statements • Bank and other financial statements • Insurance policies • Medical documents • Tax records • Government benefit statements • Passport • Legal documents • Wills 2. Don’t store unnecessary personal information on your smartphone or other handheld device. Password-protect your mobile devices with a strong password that can’t be guessed by someone else. 5 Transacting with other people and businesses 1. Don’t give any information about yourself or your accounts to anyone over the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you initiated the contact. Unsolicited requests for your personal information are likely to be scams. If the caller (or message) asking you for information purports to be from your bank or another institution with which you do business, hang up and call the institution yourself using the phone number on your account statements, and ask if they were trying to contact you. 2. Don’t give your Social Insurance Number unless it is required by your employer, financial institution or the government. Other businesses don’t need it and cannot legally insist that you provide it. 3. Never use a cheque to pay someone you don’t know and trust. Instead, use cash, credit card, debit card, money order or bank draft. 4. Don’t let your debit card or credit card out of your sight when using them to pay for services. Cover the pad when entering your PIN. 5. When selecting service providers to whom you will be entrusting your personal information, look into their privacy policies and their track records with respect to data security. Don’t do business with a company you can’t trust to keep your personal information confidential and secure. Let companies know that this is important to you.
  8. 8. Protecting Your Computer 1. Set up your computer with a username and password that you have to enter each time the computer is turned on and after a certain period of inactivity. Only let people you trust know your password. 2. Do not store passwords on your computer. Keep a list of your passwords somewhere out of sight. Disclose this location only to people you fully trust. 3. If it is hooked up to the Internet, ensure Passwords should be at least 8 characters long and include a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and/or non-alphabetical characters. Do not use easilyavailable information such as your mother’s maiden name or your birth date. that your computer is protected by a firewall and anti-virus software that is kept up-to-date and that scans your computer regularly (e.g., weekly) for viruses and spyware. 4. Turn off your computer when it is not in use. When your computer is shut off it is also disconnected from the Internet, preventing access to potential thieves. Online Activity 1. Use strong passwords to protect your financial accounts if you access them online. 2. Do not open e-mail messages or attachments if you do not recognize the name of the sender. Delete them immediately. Even messages from people you know can be dangerous if they are caused by computer viruses. If the message seems strange, do not respond to it. Attachments are most dangerous – they can carry spyware that lodges in your computer and sends your personal data back to the criminal who can then use it to perpetrate identity theft. 3. Do not download files unless you are certain that they are safe (e.g., by running them through your anti-virus software). Other people’s computers may be infected and used to send harmful viruses and spyware to your computer through email or downloads, even if the other person is unaware of the infection. 4. Do not activate “pop-up” windows that appear unexpectedly on your computer. Just like email attachments and downloads, they may contain viruses or other malicious software. 5. Don’t post information on your blog, social network profile or website that could be useful to an identity thief. See above for a list of information most useful to identity thieves. 6. If you engage in social networking online (e.g., Facebook, MySpace), set your privacy settings to the highest level; don’t just accept the default settings. Use a nickname rather than your official name. Don’t accept invitations to connect with people you don’t know. 7. Read the fine-print of Applications (“Apps”) before you install them on your computer. If the App requires access to more personal information that it needs, reconsider whether you really want to 6
  9. 9. install it. 8. Connect only to wireless (Wi-Fi) networks that you absolutely trust. If/ when you use a wireless network, make sure that your communication is secure and disconnect from the network when you stop using it. 9. Limit your activities while using public Wi-Fi.  Avoid making online purchases or accessing email while using a public Wi-Fi zone.  Public Wi-Fi hotspots are targeted by hackers since they can give the hacker direct access to your mobile device. Online Shopping 1. Make purchases only from businesses that you know are legitimate. Some websites are designed for the sole purpose of stealing your personal information, especially credit card numbers. If you are unsure about the legitimacy of the business, research it via the Internet (to see what others say about it), call and ask questions to determine its legitimacy, or contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if it is a member. 2. Place orders only through secure websites. You can tell if a site is secure: the web address will begin with “https://” and the web browser will display a locked padlock icon. 3. Pay for online purchases only with a credit card or secure online system such as PayPal. Never pay with a cheque as cheques are easily copied and contain too much personal information. 4. Don’t store your credit card information 7 or other personal information on shopping sites. While this makes future purchases from that site easier (because you won’t have to enter the same information each time), it puts your information at risk of being stolen from the site or exposed unintentionally through a security breach. 5. Read the fine print. Confirm that the business does not share your personal information with other businesses, or opt out of such sharing if necessary. You are legally entitled to “opt-out” of all non-essential use and sharing of your personal information. Smartphones 1. Use the same precautions as when using your home computer online (see above). Install security software specially designed for mobile devices and update it regularly. Double check URLs for accuracy. Don’t open suspicious links. Read the fine-print of applications before installing them. Make sure a site is secure (https) before giving any billing or personal information. 2. Install a backup/wiping program that will back up the information on your mobile device to your home computer and “wipe” your phone if it is lost or stolen so that no data remains on the device itself. These services are available through device manufacturers and wireless service providers.  iPhones have a built-in “wipe” feature that if turned on will wipe the phone after 10 failed log-on attempts. For more information and tips on Computer/Online protection, see the companion CITSC guide entitled “Protecting Yourself from Online Identity Theft”.
  10. 10. Preventing Identity Theft: Tips for Seniors Keep a minimum number of identity documents and payment cards in your wallet. Be especially careful with cheques, Social Insurance Numbers, Passports and Birth Certificates. Do not carry these documents in your purse, wallet or car unless you need them that day. Treat all unsolicited communications - whether by phone, mail, email or in person - as suspicious. Never give your full name, SIN, account numbers or passwords to strangers who contact you, whether by phone, internet, email or at the door. If you think the request was legitimate, call the company yourself using the telephone number from your billing statements or the phone book. Check your financial statements regularly. If you notice any suspicious activity on your accounts or bill, contact the bank or company immediately. Store identity documents, cheques and financial statements in a secure place at home (or in a safety box at the bank if you need them only rarely). Do not leave them lying around at home. Destroy old records that are no longer needed using a cross-cut shredder. Order a copy of your credit reports from Equifax and TransUnion annually and review them carefully. If you see any suspicious activity, contact the creditor involved and determine the nature and source of the activity. If it wasn’t you, treat it as a case of identity theft – see CITSC’s Identity Theft Victim Toolkit. If hiring a caregiver, do a thorough background check first. Have someone you trust help you with this important task. 8

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