Fraud Prevention Month 2024: How to Stay Safe Online and on Your Mobile Devices

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March is Fraud Prevention Month, an annual campaign helping Canadians recognize, reject, and report fraud. This year’s theme, “20 Years of Fighting Fraud: From Then to Now,” highlights the evolving landscape of fraud, especially with the increasing use of technology. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), Canadians lost $567 million to fraud in 2023 — an increase of $37 million from the previous year and $187 million since 2021. Despite these rising financial losses, only 5% to 10% of fraud cases are reported.

The Technology Challenge

One of the primary reasons fraudsters succeed is that many Canadians are unaware of the risks and best practices when using mobile devices and the internet. While smartphones, tablets, and other devices offer convenience and power, they expose us to various types of cybercrime, including phishing, malware, identity theft, and SIM swapping. Additionally, the vast expanse of the internet provides both information and pitfalls, making it crucial for users to stay informed and vigilant.

Protecting Yourself and Your Data

To safeguard yourself against these threats, consider the following tips and utilize the provided resources:

  1. Secure Your Mobile Device:
    • Download from Trusted Sources: Only install applications from reputable app stores (such as Google Play or Apple App Store). Avoid third-party sources, as they may host malicious apps.
    • Strong Authentication: Use a robust password or biometric authentication (such as fingerprint or face recognition) to lock your device. This prevents unauthorized access.
    • Encryption and Remote Wipe: Enable device encryption and set up remote wipe features. If your device is lost or stolen, you can remotely erase its data.
    • Public Wi-Fi Caution: Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive transactions (e.g., banking or shopping). These networks are susceptible to eavesdropping.
    • VPN Protection: Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to encrypt your data and enhance privacy.
  2. Beware of Phishing and Spam:
    • Verify Sender Identity: Avoid unsolicited emails, texts, or calls. These communications are becoming increasingly sophisticated and often appear legitimate at first glance. Verify the sender’s identity before responding or clicking on links.
    • Avoid Suspicious Links: Delete any messages that ask you to update account information or validate details. Legitimate organizations won’t request sensitive data via email.
    • Think Before You Click: Hover over links to check their destination before clicking. Be wary of unexpected attachments.
  3. Protect Your Identity:
    • Guard Personal Information: Never share sensitive details (such as Social Insurance Number, passwords, or banking information) with unknown or untrusted sources.
    • Shred Documents: Dispose of physical documents containing personal information by shredding them.
    • Monitor Your Credit: Regularly review your credit reports and bank statements for unusual activity.
    • Report Lost or Stolen IDs: If your passport, driver’s license, or other identification documents are lost or stolen, report them promptly to the relevant authorities.
  4. Educate friends and family: Some people have different digital skills than you do, and some may be more susceptible to falling for scams. Take a moment to teach them the dos and don’ts for staying safe online and using their mobile device.

Resources and Reporting

  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC): Visit the CAFC website for comprehensive information and resources on fraud prevention.
  • Stay Updated: Follow the CAFC on X/Twitter and Facebook for the latest news and alerts related to fraud.
  • Report Incidents: If you become a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it to your local police and the CAFC online or toll-free at 1-888-495-8501. Even if the fraud did not result in financial loss, report it to CAFC.

Remember, the best defense against fraud is awareness. Recognize, reject, and report any suspicious activity promptly. Stay safe online and protect your data!

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