I read with interest “Beware of fraudsters posing as Revenue Canada agents” by Susan Cameron on September 22. She said she felt “naive and vulnerable” after being targeted by a telephone scammer.
I don’t think she was naive, but merely a victim of an unscrupulous professional identity thief, an expert at manipulating conversations until you are drawn into their deception.
A thief can steal someone’s identity with as little information as name, address, and birth date. Add in a Social Insurance Number and driver’s license information and the thief is ready to “become you”.
In the corporate world, businesses have an obligation to protect their customers’ private information. In Manitoba, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) provides specific rules on how that is to be carried out.
As individuals, how can we protect our private information? Read up all you can to learn what information you can share and what information you should keep under lock and key.
As the privacy officer of the company I work for, I’ve learned a few tips from PIPEDA, and other information I’ve read on the Officer of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website that I would like to share with you. The more informed you are, the better you will be able to recognize a “scam”.
1. Never use your Social Insurance Number (SIN) as proof of identification. Memorize your SIN and keep the card in a safe location (don’t carry it in your wallet).
Disclosure of your SIN should be limited to the purposes of reporting income such as required by Revenue Canada, your financial institution, your employer, and applications for financial assistance.
2. Most people now own some kind of mobile device – an iPad, cell phone, etc. You probably not only have your personal information on your device, but that of people close to you. Set up a unique password and set your screen saver’s automatic activation at ten minutes or less, or log off when you are not using it.
As well, don’t send confidential data over public wireless networks – at cafes, for example, unless you have added security such as a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
3. Shred papers that contain your personal information once you are done with them – bank receipts, old bills, those credit card applications that come with your name on them, etc. You can purchase a small shredder (cross-cut is best) for a nominal cost.
A few years ago somebody came along and moved mine and my neighbour’s garbage bags down about five houses, to an area that was darker. All the bags had been sliced open, as if with a knife. They had not gone through bags that were mostly kitchen waste, but had removed the contents of the bags that had papers. They were looking for personal information.
4. Keep your birth certificate locked up, and only bring it with you when you need it, for example, when applying for a passport.
5. Spam, spam, spam, spam … Sorry, that’s a reference to a great Monty Python skit. On a more serious note, spam, such as unsolicited e-mail, is one way thieves can obtain personal information from your computer, enabling them to possibly make charges on your credit card, your bank account, etc.
A reputable business will not send e-mails asking you to verify your personal information online. If you suspect an e-mail is spam, do not reply to it or open any attachments or click on any links. Delete the e-mail without opening it.
6. Don’t write down your PIN numbers or share them. Be cognizant of those nearby when you are entering your PIN – shield it as best you can.
Those are just a few basic tips. I tend to believe most people are good and not interested in our private business. However, I’d rather be prepared just in case I should have an experience as Susan warned about. Protecting your personal information is not being paranoid, it’s just being safe.
There is a wealth of information on the Government’s website, and I encourage you to check it out at www.priv.gc.ca What I find particularly good are the “Fact Sheets” on a wide variety of topics. You can also check out www.cmcweb.ca/idtheft or www.fightspam.gc.ca