Sunday, January 18, 2009

How to use the three D’s to avoid ID theft

According to a pamphlet recently issued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, people can use the three D’s - Deter, Detect and Defend - to cope with a newer problem for North American citizens called identity theft
Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name.
DETER identity thieves by safeguarding your information and using the following six suggestions:
...First, shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
...Second, protect your Social Insurance number. Don’t carry your Social Insurance card in your wallet or write your Social Insurance number on a cheque. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
...Third, don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
...Fourth, never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date.
...Fifth, don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Insurance number.
...Sixth, keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.
DETECT suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements. Be alert to signs that require immediate attention: bills that do not arrive as expected, unexpected credit cards or account statements, denials of credit for no apparent reason, or calls or letters about purchases you did not make
Inspect your credit report. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history. The law requires the major nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax and TransUnion — to give you a free copy of your credit report each year if you ask for it.
Visit or call 1-877-322-8228, a service created by these companies, to order your free credit reports each year.
Your financial statements. Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not make.
DEFEND against ID theft as soon as you suspect it. Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert; a call to one company is sufficient:
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts in your accounts that you can’t explain.
Close accounts. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently
Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your okay. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents.
Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
File a police report. File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
For more fraud tips, visit the Fraud and Security section of the Canadian Bankers Association website or PhoneBusters at

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Avoid the Grandparents Scam...

 ...Don't Be Scammed By Phony "Grandkids"

Just when you may have thought scammers couldn't sink any lower, some have plunged to record depths. Recently, some scammers have bilked the elderly out of hundreds -- or thousands -- of dollars by posing as their "needy" grandchildren. 

According to, the grandparents scam usually works like this: 

You receive a phone call from someone who greets you with, "Hi Grandma." 


"Do you know who this is?" 



Without knowing it, you just made a mistake. Instead of saying, "No, I don't know who this is," you supplied the scammer with the name of a grandchild. He then proceeds to impersonate that grandchild. 

Your "grandchild" claims he's gotten into some kind of trouble -- auto accident, overdue rent, minor brush with the law -- and needs money to fix the situation. "Can you please help? But don't tell mom. She'd kill me if she found out!" 

This may seem like an obvious scam, but it's fooled plenty of people -- mostly because the scammers are good at what they do. They choose their targets carefully, tug on the heartstrings, and keep other family members "out of the loop" until it's too late. 

One scammer "victimized dozens of seniors and found his victims by scanning the phone book for old-fashioned sounding names. One of his victims, an 86-year-old grandmother, even had to use a walker in order to get to her bank and withdraw money for him." 

The scammers are cunning -- one couple could have sworn the guy REALLY was their grandson. 

Recommendation: There's one easy way to expose the fraud: DO NOT fill in any "blanks" for the scammer. For example: 

"Do you know who this is?" 

"No, I don't. Who is this?" 

"It's your granddaughter." 

"Really? Which one?" 

Most likely, the next sound you hear will be a click, followed by a dial tone. 

That's the easiest way not to fall for the grandparents scam.