Cybercrime is on the rise in Canada. From 2014 to 2017, fraudsters managed to take over $405,000,000 from Canadians1. Know the signs to protect yourself.
Anyone can get an internet domain address. Unfortunately, this ease of access means that fraudsters can create misleading sites imitating real websites like Facebook, or your bank. If you don’t see through the fraud, and enter your username and password, the fraudster will then have that information. Be vigilant when browsing: make sure the website has the correct URL and make sure the page looks like it usually does.
Even if a website looks good, it’s not a guarantee of reliability. Of course, real, trustworthy companies invest in their image and hire web designers and graphic designers. But experienced scammers, who have a lot of money or just some graphic design talent, can also create websites that look professional. Realism is sometimes convincing; don't be fooled by appearances!
If your password is “123456”, “123456789”, “qwerty” or “password”, you should change it: these were the most common and most hacked passwords of 2019. Protect yourself by making strong and unique passwords. Never use the same password twice and change all your passwords once or twice per year.
Make sure your passwords are complicated. They should:
- Be least ten characters long
- Include upper case and lower case letters
- Include numbers
- Include symbols
- Words or proper names
- Letters in keyboard order
- Letters in alphabetical order
- Numbers in order
Connecting to unprotected wifi networks
Avoid connecting your electronic devices to public wifi networks. They are not necessarily secure or protected and may have been hacked. If you decide to connect to a public network anyway, don’t enter any of your personal information and don’t log into any secure sites like your financial institution.
Limit the information you post on social media. Using the settings, make sure only your friends can see your profile. Only 42% of internet users take this precaution2. It’s a simple and easy step you can take to prevent access to your personal information. Never post publicly your workplace, the schools you attended, the location of your home, your date of birth, etc. Fraudsters can use this information to answer your security questions or steal your identity.
Over 80% of Canadian internet users made at least one online purchase in 20183, and just under half of them have had problems with their orders: packages arriving late, low quality products, damaged products, orders not received, etc. The golden rule of online shopping is: if a bargain seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Watch out for clues that indicate whether a seller is reliable. A secure site should have a URL address that starts with HTTPS or have a lock icon to the left of the URL in the address bar.
It’s generally safe to trust companies that have one or several branches in your area. However, make sure to always read comments from users who have done business with that company or individual.
Use a credit card that has a fairly low limit for your online transactions. That way, if your credit card number is stolen, the damage will be minimized. If a site offers PayPal as a payment option, that’s another sign that it is legitimate and reliable.
All you had to do was pay shipping, or sign up with your credit card for a free trial? Seems like a scam! Before subscribing to a service or accepting a tempting offer, read the terms and conditions carefully as well as the fine print at the bottom of the contract in order to catch scams. Even when you do take these precautions, it can often be difficult to unsubscribe and stop automatic payments. If you don’t know the company, decline the offer, as tempting as it may be.
Miracle products are not legitimate, even if they sometimes seem to be. Don’t be fooled by the many persuasive sales tactics: testimonials from clients satisfied with a famous skin cream, celebrities singing the praises of a fantastic detoxifying green juice, models who swear by their diet pills, etc. In addition to scamming you, these products also present a danger to your health. Trust your doctor, your nurse, your pharmacist… but not an internet ad.
Even when looking for love on the internet you’re not safe from scams. Unfortunately, fraudsters can take advantage of your openness and vulnerability in these situations. Their schemes often involve sending messages back and forth with you for a while, complimenting you and gaining your trust, and then urgently asking you for money. Stay on your guard, especially if the relationship is moving very fast or if someone you barely know asks you to help them out with money.
Ads and solicitations from organizations that say they can help you “make money fast” are suspicious. These ads try to bait you with a dream investment opportunity. It’s important to know that high return is usually synonymous with high risk, and no-risk investments mean low return.
Pyramid selling, multi-level marketing, binary systems, network marketing, matrix system, investment plans, donation circles… Whatever they’re called, these systems are illegal. Their strategies are similar: you have to pay an entry fee and lure in other investors, they make extravagant promises like high dividends and other gifts, and information about the investments is vague. Stay far away from these kinds of schemes, because once you get caught up in this, there’s little chance of getting your money back.
Never make investments using a credit card. This type of payment is never used by legitimate advisors and sellers. In any case, it’s always better to trust your investments to a recognized financial institution. Meet with an advisor in person to invest your money, for example, in investment funds or in the stock market. Only invest in licensed businesses. The Quebec Autorité des marchés financiers which regulates the financial sector has a register of firms and individuals authorized to practise and a blacklist of those to avoid.
The internet is full of many wonderful things, but there are also many traps. Beware the lures and surf the web carefully.
If you think you’ve been a victim of a fraud, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
1 Competition Bureau Canada : https://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.Nsf/eng/04334.html
2 Statistics Canada Canadian Internet Use Survey, 2018 :
3 Statistics Canada CIUS 2018 : https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-28-0001/2018001/article/00016-eng.htm