Internet: Protect your finances – don’t get caught in the “phishing” net!

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When it comes to money, there’s no shortage of schemes to make you part with it. That’s why, more than ever before, consumers need to be wary of who they provide personal information to, and how they do it.

One of the most common ways fraud artists try to get your personal information is to send you a “phishing” e-mail from what looks like your bank or another legitimate financial institution.

These messages, which can also include a familiar logo or a link to a Web site, ask you to provide or verify personal information, such as a credit card number or a password for accessing your banking account, presumably because a “security breach occurred” or “to keep your account activated”.

Consumers should also be aware of a new scam known as “vishing”, short for “voice phishing”. Vishing hooks consumers using two different approaches. The e-mail based version of the scam, like the original phishing, uses e-mails that mimic messages from an online payment service provider, such as PayPal or eBay. The messages may say that there is some problem with the recipient’s account. Instead of providing a link to a fake website, vishing e-mails provide a false customer-support telephone number. When consumers call, an automated service prompts them to “log in” by providing account numbers and passwords, using the telephone keypad.

Consumers may also receive direct calls at home, or messages left on their answering machine warning that their account may be at risk and suggesting they call customer support immediately. Fraud artists may even try to gain your trust by “confirming” personal information they have on file, such as the clients full name, address or credit card number.

Don’t get hooked!

Financial institutions never contact their clients by e-mail to request sensitive and confidential information on their bank account. No matter how urgent or convincing the message may be, do not give out your personal information.

What should I do if someone is “phishing” for my information?

If you do receive this kind of e-mail or telephone call, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) cautions you to take these steps:

1

DO NOT respond to the e-mail and NEVER give out your personal information, such as an online password, your debit or credit card numbers or your personal identification number (PIN).

2

Do NOT use the phone number provided in the e-mail or in the telephone message without first making sure that it’s valid. To confirm that the phone number provided is valid, contact your financial institution using the phone number provided on the back of your debit or credit card, your monthly statement or a published number you have looked up yourself.

3

In some cases, financial institutions may contact you by phone or leave you a voicemail message if they suspect you have been the victim of fraud. Your financial institution may ask you for information to ensure they are speaking to their client. You will NOT, however, be asked to verbally provide your PIN or password.

4

As a general rule, always be careful about how and with whom you share personal and financial information.

What if I’m already a victim of identity theft?

If you are being held liable for the money you lost through this type of email or telephone call, you may be protected. Most financial institutions have made a public commitment to protect customers in cases of fraud.

Also, if your debit card is skimmed or double-swiped and your personal identification number (PIN) was stolen, resulting in unauthorized transactions being made on your account, you may be protected by the Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Debit Card Services – if you have met certain conditions to protect your PIN. Banks in Canada have agreed to abide by this code, which limits a consumer’s liability in cases of fraud involving a debit card.

FCAC makes sure that the federally regulated financial institutions respect their voluntary codes, public commitments, and the regulations. If you are the victim of fraud and are being held liable, or for more information on your rights and responsibilities, contact FCAC toll-free at: 1-866-461-3222 or visit the Agency’s Web site at www.fcac.gc.ca.

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