How to Protect Yourself From Fraud and Identity Theft

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A few years ago, I tried to buy a coffee before a shift at my part-time retail store job, and my TD debit card was declined. A few minutes later, I received a phone call from my bank asking if I had recently made a withdrawal from an ATM for $300 – on the other side of the country. Since I hadn’t flown from Montreal to Edmonton at the speed of sound earlier that morning, it was obvious the cash withdrawal wasn’t mine. My information had been stolen!

My debit card was immediately cancelled and the $300 was returned to my account, but I had to wait a few days for my new debit card and PIN to arrive in the mail. I’m not sure how or where my account information was compromised, but that was the first time I was the victim of identity theft.

Scam artists will use all kinds of methods to try to get their hands on your personal data, from skimming debit and credit cards to “phishing” for your information directly from you. Knowing what types of tactics identity thieves are using can help protect you and your money.

The three types of “ishing” for your personal information

Smishing

This is the most prevalent type of “ishing” personally affecting me right now. Every few days I seem to get a text message asking for personal information or containing a link to a website. The ones I’ve received have typically said I’ve won some sort of prize, without saying what contest I entered, or tell me I’ve been selected as a mystery shopper. I never click the link in these messages, and always block the number before deleting the text from my phone so they can’t contact me again. Smishing scams will typically ask for your credit or debit card number, your SIN, or other personal information.

What you should watch out for: Smishing text messages typically contain spelling or grammatical errors and overuse punctuation, something a professional bank would never do. Furthermore, if you do not recognize the number or the offer, it’s best to ignore the message and block the number immediately.

Phishing

Phishing consists of authentic-looking emails “fishing” for personal information. They will often ask directly in the email for you to reply with login information or PINs, or they will direct you to a website form asking for the same sensitive information. You should never respond to these emails with any personal information, or input your information on any webpage or form they link.

What you should watch out for: Check the sender email address to see if it’s the same one from which you typically receive emails from your bank. If it’s not, delete the email immediately. Phishing scams will often send official looking emails from bogus addresses, hoping you won’t look too closely. Another big clue an email is a phishing scam is if it’s asking for your login information at a bank you don’t have any accounts with! Do not reply with any personal information. Delete the email and block the sender.

Vishing

Vishing is unsolicited telephone calls asking directly for your personal information, or to follow up on a phishing email you might have received. Sometimes these calls are done by a real person, but often it is a recording asking you to enter sensitive information like your SIN or credit card number.

What you should watch out for: If you receive a phone call asking for personal information, or encouraging you to reply to or follow a link in a suspicious email, hang up. Sometimes these callers will tell you that you’ve won a contest and now need your personal data so you can collect your prize. If you don’t remember entering any contest, it’s probably a scam.

TD Fraud Alerts

To keep your information and money safe, TD has launched a new feature that sends Canadians a free[1] fraud alert text message if there is suspicious activity detected on their TD Access Card for their personal banking accounts. Customers can respond to the text with “Y” or “N” to confirm if they recognize the transaction and have TD unblock their card.

TD will never ask customers to reply to a Fraud Alert text with any personal information or ask customers to click on any links in their reply. Just don’t forget to make sure TD has your current mobile number to receive these alerts.

Additionally, the TD MySpend app can help keep TD customers aware of purchases on their accounts, through real-time notifications. This may enable you to recognize fraudulent purchases as soon as they happen.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself Against Fraud

During the holidays when you’re shopping for gifts for friends and family, it’s easy to forget how much you spent and where – which means you also might be less likely to notice a fraudulent transaction on your bank statements.

There are a number of different ways you can identify identity theft:

  • Check your bank statement and online activity for any transactions you don’t recognize. Hold on to your receipts from your shopping trips so you can compare and identify any transactions that aren’t yours.
  • If you receive credit card statements or other bills in your name that do not belong to you, it could mean someone is using your information to open credit accounts in your name.
  • If a creditor informs you of an application for credit received with your name and address, but you did not complete.
  • If you added a note to your credit profile with a consumer reporting agency to be notified before credit is extended, and you receive a notification that your credit was extended and you didn’t apply for it.

If any of the above happen, it’s important to contact your financial institution immediately, as well as the credit reporting agencies. The sooner you recognize and report any fraud on your accounts, the better. Discuss with your bank ways to minimize the damage and prevent any further fraud – this might include closing bank accounts and opening new ones, replacing bank cards and assigning new pins, and changing existing bank credentials.

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to protect yourself from fraud or identity theft, but the information above will help you minimize your risk. The world of identity theft is fast paced and rapidly changing, so it’s important you keep up to date on the methods to recognize and reduce fraud in order to best protect yourself and your finances!

This post has been sponsored by TD Bank, but all opinions are my own.

[1] TD does not charge any fees for TD Fraud Alerts. However, standard wireless carrier message rates may apply.


5 Comments

  1. Tommy

    I’ve experienced identity fraud once. My credit card became compromised when I used Western Union and gave the Western Union operator my credit card number to make a payment. Shortly after, tons of charges began appearing on my card. My bank alerted me, I confirmed the purchases were not made by me, and the card was cancelled. It’s an inconvenience especially if you have lots of pre-authorized payments set up on your credit card.

    • So true. I put all my pre-authorized transactions to a credit card and it’d be killer to have to update them all. Thankfully fraud/identity theft doesn’t happen often!

  2. Mr. Picky Pincher and I put most of our expenses on our rewards credit card to ward off identity theft. Our credit card offers more protection than a debit card and our bank constantly monitors it for fraud so it can be caught more quickly.

  3. Nowadays doing online fraud has become so easy, there are many innocent peeps who don’t have much technical knowledge and end up giving their card details. Fraudsters are also creating new ways to do frauds, people should think twice before making payments, details sharing, personal info etc. TD fraud alerts is the one which i like the most, it immediately sends a message whenever any suspicious activity is observed. Thanks for sharing such useful tips to prevent online frauds.

  4. I enjoy the input you are giving, with Savings, different accounts, also with recommending Tangerine banking. Now I am going to share this post to prevent fraud happening to others and help you’re site. Thank you