5 tips for online safety

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Many new immigrants can become targets of scams. Unscrupulous entities may take advantage of your unfamiliarity with laws or play off on your urgent need for a job, training or even just friendship. Online scams, specifically, are insidious operations that can trick even the most experienced among us. These range from identity theft to phishing schemes, which are done through email messages, infected websites (with malware), or phone calls aiming to steal personal information. They then use the stolen data to gain access to credit cards or bank account/s.

Crafty tactics

Just last February 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). According to the police, a suspect calls a victim claiming that they are with Taxation Canada. The scammer informs the person that he needs to pay back taxes and that he should pay it in the form of gift cards. The frequency of this type of scam rises yearly around tax time. Another particularly crafty scheme involves a call or email from a personnel of a bank informing the customer that she has won a prize. The customer is instructed to disclose her bank account information immediately in order to claim it.

There are many other forms and versions of such scams, but what is common among these is the use of urgency or scare tactics to snare the victims. To familiarize yourself of other schemes (online or otherwise), read this article from the Canadian Immigrant: Beware of top scams: newcomers vulnerable and Common phishing scams and how to recognize and avoid them by Dave Albaugh, Comparitech. Remember that your first line of protection against fraud and scams is to keep yourself informed.

Here are 5 other ways to keep you always one step ahead of these scammers:

1. Keep your personal info private

Always protect key information. Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or Unique Client Identifier number (UCI) unlock a host of information about you that can be used in a variety of schemes. Do not give them 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). Also, remember that your bank will never email you to ask for account information. If it is needed for a transaction, call your bank branch first to verify before disclosing sensitive information. It may be wise to make a list of all your account numbers and lock it in a safe. Should you become a victim, it will be easier to reactivate these accounts using the list as a reference.

2. Keep your online accounts secure

Use strong user names and passwords to protect your accounts. Never use just one password for all of them. Watch this video from Google privacy to learn how to create more secure passwords.

Also, always check your bank statements. This is the easiest way to see if there have been unauthorized transactions or withdrawals from your account.

3. Always verify online job postings

Take note of job postings without a company name, or if the company has no brick and mortar 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, or 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 steer clear away from.

Also, a job offer that sounds too good to be true often is, especially if they require little or no experience for an astronomical salary. These are often hooks that can get you to invest in shady deals. 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 (start with the Canada Job Bank).

4. 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.
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.

5. Think before you click

Don’t click links included in 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.

Generally, keep in mind that if you don’t know the sender, don’t open the email. Make it a point to always keep your computer’s anti-virus software, firewall, security, and privacy settings up-to-date.

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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 brochures and handouts on frauds and scams on this site.

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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