As we use an increasing number of online services, personal
information is sent out onto the Internet at an alarming rate. But
is your information safe?
In the dark corners of the Internet lurk cyber criminals who
prey on unsuspecting individuals by stealing personal information
and using it for their own gain.
According to the latest statistics from the Canadian Anti-Fraud
Centre, there were 1,812 identity fraud complaints from Canadians
in December 2014 alone. The losses from these frauds added up to
$900,000 for the month and a staggering $1 0,000,000 for 2014!
This is the reality of the online world we live in. The number
of fraud complaints increases each year with the most common
victims being individuals aged 50-70 or "baby
Many baby boomers are targeted by identity thieves for their
accumulated inheritances, substantial home equity and lifetime of
When money is combined with cognitive fatigue among aging baby
boomers, it can be a recipe for fraud. Older adults who spend a
lifetime building good credit have a lot to lose.
Cyber-criminals look for personal information such as passwords,
account numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs) and social
insurance numbers (SINs). With this information they can access
your bank and investment accounts, apply for loans, mortgages and
credit cards, and/or receive government benefits all in your name.
And the list goes on.
People who become victims of identity theft take years to
recover from the damage to their finances and reputation - all the
more reason to better protect your personal data.
To minimize the risk of cyber-attacks on your personal data, it
is prudent to be aware of the common tactics used to steal personal
Boomers tend to receive a significant amount of advertisements
regarding medical care, asset management, investment opportunities
and many other services that cyber-criminals can use as a
Cyber thieves use forged email messages and websites to
impersonate legitimate organizations to trick you into disclosing
Hackers can gain access to your computer and install keystroke
loggers that steal data or capture account names and passwords as
you type them without your knowledge. You can protect your personal
data by being vigilant. Look out for fraud's red flags:
Unsolicited email messages, telephone calls, mail from an
unknown origin or overseas that request personal or financial
Mailings and offers that want an urgent response, cash payment
or money sent by wire transfers, prepaid cards or cheques
Investment offers that look too good to be true and cannot be
questioned, inspected or checked out further
Offers that suggest recipients not tell family or friends about
In addition to looking out for red flags, here are some good
habits suggested by the RCMP that can reduce your chances of
falling victim to cyber-crime:
Keep your computer software updated: use strong passwords,
firewalls, and anti-virus software
Secure your mobile devices and wireless networks
Never conduct financial transactions on public Wi-Fi networks
or "hot spots" and encrypt sensitive information such as
Confirm that the business or website is legitimate before
divulging personal data and only provide the minimum information
Ensure websites are secure prior to submitting your credit card
number or other sensitive information.
Websites should begin with https:// (hypertext
transfer protocol secure) rather than just http://
Review your credit reports at least annually
Review bank and credit card statements every month for any
Immediately report unauthorized transactions to the respective
When personal and financial documents are no longer needed,
Still, even with all these measures, it is difficult to protect
your personal data when a third-party such as a bank or employer
has been breached. If this has occurred, do not panic, but quickly
take steps to minimize the damage:
Close financial accounts that may be compromised
Report your identification (driver's licence, passport,
birth certificate) that may be lost or stolen
Put a fraud alert on your credit report and track it closely in
the following years
Here is the key message:
To avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime and identity theft,
diligently protect your personal information, monitor your accounts
and follow up.
Jim is Ontario Regional Managing Director of Crowe Horwath
Global Risk Consulting. CHGRC is a global professional services
firm assisting global companies with their governance, risk and
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).