October 20, 2017
10 ways to protect your personal information
By Joy Blenman
When it comes to identity theft and the damage it can do, using your common sense along with smart tech tips can help you stay safe.
Having your wallet stolen is an unnerving experience that can leave you feeling panicked, violated and anxious. And as more of our personal and financial information moves online, hackers have new opportunities to steal our virtual wallets – which can be as bad or even worse than a physical theft.
In September 2017, the credit bureau Equifax revealed that the files of 145.5 million American consumers had been compromised. These files contained clients’ personal information such as their names, addresses, social security numbers and, in some cases, driver’s licence numbers. In Canada, the breach affected around 8,000 people, according to the firm’s latest press release. Other data breaches, such as the 2013 Yahoo breach, which affected 3 billion users, and yet another Equifax hack in October 2017, have many Canadians thinking about fraud.
Fraud is a widespread issue that costs Canada $290 million from January 2014 to December 2016, according to the Competition Bureau. If you’re one of the many Canadians affected by identity theft, don’t panic. There are precautions you can take to protect yourself and prevent future incidents.
What to do if you believe your identity has been stolen
Canadians affected by the Equifax breach will receive a letter with more insights on how their file was affected.
However, if you suspect that you are a victim of any sort of identity fraud, contact your financial institutions and then contact the national credit bureaus. In Canada, Equifax Canada is one of the 2 main bureaus. The other is TransUnion Canada. The agencies may suggest you put a credit freeze on your account for a fee. This is helpful because it blocks anyone trying to open any new accounts in your name.
10 tips for protecting your personal information
The RCMP says the best way to know if your identity has been compromised is to monitor your financial accounts regularly. It's also important to share information only with trusted companies and devices. Ultimately, it boils down to being scrupulous with whom you give your information to, according to Craig Peppard, the Director of Security Governance at Sun Life Financial. “Every time you give your information to a company you’re increasing your risk, because you’re creating a new repository,” says Peppard.
Here are some critical steps you can take to protect your personal information, based on advice from experts like Peppard:
10. Be cautious of IoT (Internet of Things) devices. IoT devices such as automated thermostats, smart TVs and smart speakers are hot items right now, but they pose new security risks, says Peppard: “As [IOT devices] age, their firmware may not update frequently and if they’re set up with older types of encryption they may not give you adequate protection – leaving your devices at risk for an attack.” Peppard suggests you skip adding your credit card information to your devices unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Preventative safeguards are the best defence against fraud
On October 12, the U.S. Equifax site took down one of its customer service pages temporarily, after criminals allegedly hacked the site so that it would send users dangerous software disguised as Adobe Flash. This latest incident is just one of thousands of digital scams lurking on the web. There’s no sure-fire way to ensure your information will never be breached, but these tips can help lower your risk. Ultimately, the best defence is a good offence.