Scams, Fraud and Identity Theft

When Natalia (her name changed) moved to Canada five years ago, she thought Canada was a safe place, very different from the challenges around personal security and corruption she left behind.

When a nice lady called her identifying herself as a customer service staff from a well-known grocery store chain, she didn’t hesitate to provide some basic information. After all, she thought, she was a customer of that store and the lady sounded professional and nice. She also knew many things about Natalia, so the call made all sense…until a month after, a credit card she never had applied to sent her a bill for $500 from some Spanish hotel she never visited!

Ana Rosa was looking for a job. As many other immigrants, she trusted Craiglist as a good source of jobs. She was pleasantly surprised when a company she had applied to sent her an email telling she was hired. The company was informing her that she would receive a cheque for $1500. She needed to deposit it in her account and send a money transfer of $600 to an account to buy supplies she would need to do her job. Thankfully, she shared the email with me! It was a scam, this company’s cheque would surely bounce back after a week, once she had sent them the money to them.

Scams, fraud and identity theft are very common in Canada. People behind these practices are well prepared and know how to make you trust them and provide information they will use for their own purposes.

These are the things you need to know to protect yourself:

Never provide your S.I.N. number to anybody who is not in this list (check here):

  • your employer
  • your income tax information
  • financial institutions from which you earn interest or income (for example, banks, credit unions, trust companies)
  • Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or Régie des rentes du Québec (RRQ) benefits
  • Employment Insurance (EI) program benefits
  • Canada Education Savings Grants (CESG) and Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP)
  • Child Tax Benefit
  • Canada Student Loans
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) / Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) claims
  • Social assistance benefits
  • Veterans benefits and programs
  • Workers Compensation benefits
  • child support payments.

When providing the information, make sure you are the one who approached them (in person, through a government form or by phone or online form)

When somebody calls or emails you, never provide personal information: address, date of birth, PR card, care card or SIN number, credit card numbers or pins, name of institutions you deal with or names of other people in your household. Your bank or the government will never call you to ask these things, they already have this information.

Don’t open emails from people you don’t know. If the email comes from a trusted person but the content doesn’t sound like them, inform them and ignore the email.

Never click on a link provided by you by a bank. Your bank will never send you emails to verify your identity.

Log out from your email account once you have finished.

Create a job-search email account, different from the one you use regularly

Do not add any personal information to your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Twiter accounts. The only information you need is your name, address, email and phone number.

Carry only the documents and cards you will need and have the rest stored in a safe place

Check your bank account and your credit card statements regularly and report any suspicious charge immediately

Use your credit card online with trusted websites only and have only one for online purchases: it is easier to track just one.

Do not show or send your bank account or credit card statements to anybody. If an institution asks you to see them, make sure they are a trusted and well known institution and that they have a good reason to see this.

Never send money to “potential employers”. Real employers will pay you, they won’t ask for money.

Never provide your SIN, PR or any other document of personal information to a potential employer. You first need to go through the interview process and have a formal job offer in hand. Real employers can’t legally ask you for any of this before a job offer.

Never put your address in a resume if you can’t find who the employer is. You can still leave the email, phone number and city or province, but don’t provide your full address if they are not willing to provide theirs.

If you receive an email or a call from somebody saying they are calling on behalf somebody you know who requires financial help, try to contact the actual person to confirm. Do not send money nor provide any further information until you know it is true.

Make a copy of all your important documents (from birth certificates to PR and immigration papers, bank accounts and credit cards, etc.) and keep them safe in a portfolio or binder at home or at very trusted family or friends. This will keep your documents safe in case of robbery, fire, etc.

 The best way to avoid scams, frauds and identity theft is to be cautious. Learn about your rights and responsibilities and educate your family members.

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