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Protection from Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud

Surrounded By Sharks

Identity theft and credit card fraud is a growing industry in Canada, with almost a quarter of all Canadians having been impacted in some way by criminals looking for easy money.

Outdoor ATMs are responsible for about 46% of all debit and credit card skimming.  A well disguised card reader over the regular card slot records your card’s magnetic strip information, while a strategically placed video camera records you punching in your pin number.  Make a habit of only using ATMs in well lit and busy indoor locations.  And always shield your personal identification number when using an ATM or a PIN pad.

Pay at the pump gas pumps can be a gold mine of card information as all are recorded in the pump’s computer memory.   Thieves gain access to the pump internals using a master key to download the card information.  Keep your receipts and check your card transactions frequently on-line or against your monthly statement for any suspicious charges.

Restaurants are a common place for either skimming or using a low tech approach by just copying the card numbers down to use for fraudulent purchases.  Personally I won’t give any card to a waiter or waitress to take away to input the transaction – they can either bring me a chip reader unit to the table or I will go to the till and watch the transaction being processed.

Smart phones with online banking apps plus lots of personal or business contacts can be a goldmine for identity theft.  Don’t use banking apps on unsecured networks and don’t store passwords on your phone.  Keep the phone’s software up to date to help maintain security of the information it stores.

Trash bins are also a goldmine for identity thieves.  Make sure you shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage.  When you change your address, make sure you notify the post office, your banks and credit card companies.

Identity theft can occur over the internet or telephone, or via fax or regular mail.  Therefore, be particularly wary of unsolicited emails, telephone calls or mail attempting to extract personal or financial information from you.

Ask yourself if you really need all of those identity documents you carry in your wallet or purse.  Remove any you don’t need and keep them in a secure place instead.  Periodically check your credit reports, bank and credit card statements and report any irregularities promptly to the relevant financial institution and to the credit bureaus.

It’s safer to swipe your cards yourself than it is to allow a cashier to do it for you.  If you must hand over your card, never lose sight of it.

Memorize all personal identification numbers for payment cards and telephone calling cards.  Never write them on the cards and familiarize yourself with billing cycles for your credit and debit cards.

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