With the steady rise in online purchasing in Canada there also comes unwanted criminal attention. Where once the risk in shopping was having your purse, wallet or purchases snatched, or your credit card being skimmed by an unscrupulous clerk, now there is the added worry about being impersonated online by an identity thief.
Be Smart About Wi-Fi
With smartphones being used for an increasing percentage of online shopping use, you now have to be extra vigilant about your personal data security. In addition to the standard safeguards you should take regarding your home computer, such as regularly downloading the most recent system security updates and running your computer behind an online firewall, you need to be careful about your wifi security as well. For instance, never run your personal network as an “open system.” An enterprising crook can use dedicated software on a laptop to sniff, and log, wifi networks that are not password protected. Also remember that when you create a password, use a combination of not easily guessed numbers, letters, and symbols to make it more difficult to crack.
Likewise, never conduct transactions involving money, passwords, or personal information, over a public wifi network. Anyone can set up a “free” wifi hotspot, and unless you know how to set up a virtual private network (VPN), you should only use them for browsing.
Be Wary of Your Commercial E-mail
It is not difficult for scammers to create official looking emails, with closely spoofed domain names, in order to get you to click on a link that will redirect you for nefarious purposes. Unless you absolutely know the provenance of the email offer, proceed under the assumption that it is a scamming attempt.
Also be aware that no one from your bank, any credit card issuer, or online retailer will attempt to get you to verify sensitive account information via email. They know your phone number and will call you, but phone scams represent classic criminal opportunism as well. Ask for a verifiable secured link to manage your sensitive account information.
Trust, But Verify Websites
If the common scammer can spoof an email by looking like the legitimate business it is pretending to mail from, even more ambitious scammers attempt to spoof entire websites. Spoof websites will lack critical webpage name data and often have an incorrect logo. Do not ever knowingly click on a link on a spoof website.
Pay With A Credit Card, Not Debit
Despite the protections against fraud liability afforded by the Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Debit Card Services, debit cards are still riskier than credit cards for online purchases for one simple reason—the debit card is directly linked to your bank account. With a major credit card, the scammer who obtains access to your account is defrauding the issuer, not your personal funds. With a debit card, your bank accounts linked to it are temporarily drained of funds while things are sorted out, a major disruption in your daily finances.
Buy Identity Theft Insurance
Part of the pain of identity theft is the time consumed restoring your good name. Identity theft policies, which are easily attached to renter’s, homeowner’s, or condo insurance coverage, compensate you for time lost from work, and money spent on documents and services in restoring your identity.