5 tips for online safety

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Newcomers can be easy targets for scams. Criminals may take advantage of your unfamiliarity of laws, urgent need of a job, or need of personal connection. However, online scams are becoming more sophisticated – they can trick even the most experienced Canadians. These range from identity theft to phishing schemes. Scams may be done through emails, malware-infected websites, or texts and phone calls. All these aim to steal personal information which they use to gain access to credit cards or bank accounts.

Crafty tactics

In 2015, CBC News Manitoba reported a spike in over-the phone scams in Winnipeg (CBC News, Spike in over-the phone fraud reports has Winnipeg police on alert, Feb. 23, 2015). Among these, the most common one is the “CRA scam”. Victims receive a call from CRA or “Taxation Canada” telling them that they owe back taxes. The scammers pressure them to pay the debt through gift cards and inform them that they will be arrested by the police if they don’t pay up. This type of fraud comes yearly around tax time.

Scammers find a way to make a quick buck even during this time of pandemic. There are COVID scams currently circulating. For example:

  • Red Cross phishing scam – Texts or emails giving free COVID supplies from Red Cross like masks and sanitizers. It will ask you to click on a link to avail of the offer and then they collect your personal information.
  • COVID test scam – A call or text saying that your COVID-19 test is ready. You’ll be asked to provide your bank account details to claim it.
  • Canada Relief Fund text scam – A text saying “Alert: The emergency response benefit of Canada Relief Fund has sent you a deposit for $XX. See link. Data rates may apply”. It is a phishing link.

There are many other types of scams, but what is common among these is the use of urgency or scare tactics to fool the victims. To stay one step ahead of these scammers you should:

  1. Avoid clicking links

    Don’t click links in texts, emails, suspicious websites, or download materials from them. Persistent pop-up ads, aside from being annoying, are especially worrying. They are gateways to malicious software and viruses. If you have one that doesn’t go away, it could mean that your computer is already infected. To know the first steps for getting rid of these ads, get help from Google.

    Keep in mind that if you don’t know the sender, don’t click on links in a text or open their email message. Always keep your computer’s anti-virus software, as well as security and privacy settings up-to-date.

  2. Keep your personal info private

    Protect your personal information and don’t give it away online or over the phone. For example, your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or Unique Client Identifier number (UCI) can unlock information about you that can be used to steal your identity or be used in other scams. Do not give these out unless the person or agency asking is authorized by law to do so (here’s a list from Service Canada of those who can ask for your SIN).

    Remember that your bank will never email you to ask for account information. They should have this in their files. If it is needed for a transaction, call your bank branch first and verify. Better to be safe than sorry.

  3. Keep your online accounts secure

    Always use strong a user names and passwords. Don’t use just one password for all your accounts and don’t save your password in a device that is used by others. Watch this video from Google privacy to learn how to create more secure passwords.

    Make it a habit to always check your bank statements. This is the easiest way to discover if there are unauthorized transactions or withdrawals from your account.

  4. Always verify online job postings

    Take note of job postings without a company name, or if the company has no physical presence. You can always verify if a job posting is authentic by calling the supplied contact number directly or visiting their website. Otherwise, you can check with the Better Business Bureau.

    Never pay a fee on the promise of getting a job. Legitimate companies will never ask you for payment in order to be hired. Some may also lure you with a promise of being hired after paying for training. If they cannot provide a receipt for this service, a copy of a contract, or any written proof, it is certainly a scam. Read Money: Are you the target of a Scam? by Dale Sproule on Canadian Newcomer to know more about deceitful hiring or training operations that newcomers should stay away from.

    Received a job offer that sounds too good to be true? Be suspicious! If a job requires little or no experience and promises a huge salary, then you know that it’s a scam (or it could be illegal). To prevent this from happening, start your job search by doing your homework. Research the labor market for standard wages as well as education and job requirements (use the Canada Job Bank). This way, you will know what a real job offer should look like.

  5. Online shopping precautions

    Watch this video from Kiboo to keep your online transactions secure:

    You can also read Thinking of online shopping? Here’s how to stay safe for more tips.

    To know if the company you are dealing with online is legitimate, check with the Better Business Bureau. Better yet, always be updated about the latest marketplace issues. An easy way to do this is to sign up for consumer alerts by email at the Manitoba.ca site. These alerts inform you about the latest news and provide tips on consumer safety.

Article updated April 1, 2020.

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Community Resources

Kids can be more internet-savvy than adults. However, they can get reckless online. The Being Smart Online Youtube channel has many short and informative videos that will help them stay safe online (available in various languages).

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is the central agency in Canada that collects information and criminal intelligence on such matters as mass marketing fraud, advance fee fraud, Internet fraud and identification theft complaints.

Manitoba has a Financial Literacy Resource website that features fact sheets and tips. You can download these information materials to learn how to protect yourself from frauds and scams.

Learn about investment fraud or report one to the Manitoba Securities Commission site. You can also sign up for investment alerts here.

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5 tips for online safety

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