With March being Fraud Prevention Month, that message is a timely one.
Installing up-to-date security software on computers and smartphones is one step.
The CARP website, crediting www.protectionpower.ca, lists 10 steps to help prevent fraud:
1. Don’t let your thirst for a bargain get in the way of common sense. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Cheap prescription drugs or weight-loss products, discount designer fashions … they’re probably little more than snake oil and cheap ripoffs.
2. Job scams are prevalent, especially in tough economic times. Beware overpaid work-at-home “opportunities,” job ads without legitimate contact information and any job application asking for your SIN or photocopied identification.
3. If someone tells you you’ve won a prize or a lottery, ensure you actually entered the contest.
4. Beware of any offer that involves wiring money or cashing cheques (especially if you are asked to return a portion of the funds).
5. Always ask for documentation before you pay an invoice or accept an order.
6. If you wish to donate, contact the organization yourself. New scams and fake charities always arise, in particular, around Christmas and in the wake of natural disasters.
7. Do not give out personal or financial information via phone, email or fax. Do not use a call-back number or link provided in an email; phone the agency directly.
8. Never enter false information on a mortgage application; do not accept money for using your name and financial information to apply for a mortgage that’s not yours.
9. Learn to spot phishing emails and phone calls. These appear to come from legitimate businesses and ask you to “verify your account” or “confirm your identity.” They may contain threats such as “respond within 48 hours or your account will be closed.” Do not reply to these messages.
10. Stay vigilant. The effects of fraud can be extensive and long-lasting. Check your credit report regularly. Monitor your credit card bills and bank statements for any unusual activity.