An expert is sharing how to prevent fraud at home, including while spring cleaning.
Warming temperatures often bring people to the need to spring clean, which often includes getting rid of old papers and documents. While sorting through garbage is less common, Jeff Thompson says this continues to pose a risk.
"Criminals are looking to harvest your personal and financial information to carry out further fraud, to apply for credit cards in tour name, open bank accounts in your name, maybe even to apply for government benefits," the RCMP intelligence analyst says.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, whom Thompson works for, says in the first two months of 2021, a total of $34.6 million has been lost to fraudulent activity, more than one-third of last year's total fraud losses.
Between March 6 2020 and February 28, 2021, $7.2 million has been lost to COVID-19 fraud. There were 13,553 reports and 11,789 Canadians affected by COVID-19 frauds.
Thompson says personal information that could be an issue if shared includes:
- blood type
- date of birth
- account information
- account balances
Common things with these kinds of information are tax forms, credit card statements, and bills.
Thompson says this information can also be used to make fake IDs or passports.
"It is really important to protect your personal information. I always say treat it like a $1,000 bill."
The analyst says anything that is unneeded and has personal information on it needs to be gotten rid of, safely.
Instead of tossing the documents or letters, he says to burn or shred them. Previously the RCMP's Anti-Fraud Centre held events to give access to shredders and fraud-prevention information.
To protect personal information that is online, Thompson says passwords and encryption are important.
"You want to make sure that your computer is up to date, that you are using anti-virus software, and I think the big thing that we saw in the past in the news was that credential stuffing attack or different data breaches where the criminals are going after the personal information."
He says people need to use different passwords and keep personal information offline. If receiving a suspicious phone call, Thompson says it is possible to leave the call and later verify with the organization that they did call.