We go about our daily lives sharing information freely and casually online. Whether logging in and out of websites and apps, joining public Wi-Fi, banking, filling in surveys, and opening emails. As a matter of fact, that’s barely scratching the surface of our online activity. Our lives continue to become increasingly digital. As a result, our everyday actions are posing increased risk to the security of our information and identities. Cyberattacks are on the rise in Canada and it’s more important than ever we protect ourselves.
Shockingly, the impact of fraud in Canada in 2021 saw an increase in reports of fraud. Look at the difference – (74,525 vs. 71,100 in 2020), victims of fraud (50,666 vs. 42,184 in 2020). Monetary loss to fraud more than doubled from the year prior ($269M vs. 106.6M in 2020).
We are familiar with many scams. There is the Prince of Nigeria, the “help me grandma” and the CRA. We also have to deal with the online dating sites (Tinder Swindler, anyone?). That’s a whole other realm we’ll get into another time! Of course, we all think “that could never happen to us”…or our friends. But never say never.
We wanted to check in with cybersecurity expert and director of TELUS Online Security, Leigh Tynan. She discusses what Canadians should keep in mind to ensure their data and identities remain safe.
Some online scams are very obvious but they are getting pretty elaborate including very convincing company logos. What clues should we be looking for and how can we protect ourselves?
Leigh: You’re right! Cybercriminals are upping their game, and it is time that we up ours to protect against the risks. You should be suspicious of a scam if the offer seems too good to be true, suspicious email domains, if you’re being asked to share personal information or prompted to ‘click’ to make a payment. Scammers will often put pressure on their victims and are getting very targeted so make sure you are taking the time to carefully review the information at hand, even if it seems relevant to you.
As our lives continue to become increasingly digital, there is an added risk for our personal information and online identities to be compromised. That’s why it’s important to take the time to protect ourselves through protection like TELUS Online Security, Powered by Norton —a simple way to stay safer online.
My best advice is for Canadians to educate themselves. We set up cameras so we can see what’s going on outside our homes, if we ride a bike, we lock it up when we leave it and we wouldn’t give our car keys to just anyone. Yet arguably our most valuable possession, our identity, we often forget to protect. We need to be aware of the fraud threats out there, and take action to protect ourselves.
Here are some simple and critical tips to keep in mind to help protect against online fraud:
- Always ensuring you have the most up to date software on your computer or mobile devices. Subscribe to a device security service to protect you from malware, ransomware, viruses, spyware and other online threats. One great example is TELUS Online Security. Canada’s #1 security provider is available in Canada to help protect your devices, online privacy and identity.
- Creating complex, unique passwords to protect yourself. We put ourselves at immense risk if we have the same password. It’s just ask risky to use just a few passwords across all our apps, loyalty programs, banking sites etc. I understand that people feel overwhelmed by all the passwords needed today. For this reason, I suggest using a password manager to help keep them all straight. They are simple to use and coordinate across all your devices.
- Using a VPN to mask your online activity from spyware or online hackers. Most of us use VPN’s all the time for work, but we forget we are at just as much risk in our personal lives. In fact, TELUS Online Security is currently offering Canadians a free 3-month trial. You can experience firsthand how this solution can help keep them protected, link here.
- Never trusting a Wi-Fi connection that isn’t your own. I would like to reinforce that if you are going to use public Wi-Fi, please ensure you are protected by a VPN.
A great educational tool is TELUS Wise, a free digital literacy education program, that empowers Canadians to stay safe in a digital world. TELUS Wise offers informative workshops and resources on a variety of topics. Frome protecting your online security, privacy, and reputation, rising above cyberbullying to using technology responsibly. (editorial side note: highly recommend as there are topics and tips for all generations)
About Social Media Scams
We are often tempted to do those fun personality quizzes on Facebook Should we be avoiding them?
Leigh: Whenever you engage with a business or organization online, you’re leaving them with your personal data. This includes seemingly harmless activities like completing an online quiz that asks you for some personal information. All it takes is for one of these organizations to be hacked for your data to be packaged up and sold online to hackers and cybercriminals.
While online quizzes are definitely engaging and fun to take, I do want to note that not all quizzes are scams. Many quizzes come from trusted sources and were created as a way for people to have fun! Needless to say, it’s important, as always, to ensure the platform offering the quiz is a trusted one and that you aren’t revealing too much personal information that could put you at risk.
What about on Instagram? There are lots of brands that reach out privately inviting us to be “brand ambassadors” in exchange for free products. They even make offers for dogs! And they sound like fun! But what can you tell us?
Leigh: Similar to online quizzes, not all online ambassador opportunities are scams! It’s important, as always, to ensure the platform and company offering the ambassador opportunity is a trusted one, that the offer doesn’t sound too good to be true and that you aren’t revealing too much personal information that could put you at risk.
Again, whenever you engage with a business or organization online, you’re leaving them with your personal data. This includes seemingly harmless activities like responding to an ambassador inquiry with your personal information so they can contact you to share more information. All it takes is for one of these organizations to be hacked for your data to be packaged up and sold online to hackers and identity thieves.
One of the benefits of TELUS Online Security is its dark web monitoring which continuously patrols the dark web and private forums looking for personal information and sends you notifications if it is found. Additionally, there is Bank & Credit Card Activity Alerts* which helps protect your finances against fraud with alerts that notify you of cash withdrawals, balance transfers and large purchases. (* LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.)
It continuously scans the dark web and your accounts, alerting you if your personal info has been compromised or if there is suspicious activity. This allows you to take the appropriate action, especially when that data could be used to hack into your accounts or impersonate you on things like loan applications.
There has been much talk about people deleting their social media accounts. Should we for security reasons?
Leigh: As an employee of a large tech company, I can personally relate to seeking a social media break from time to time, however there is no need to delete your social media accounts for security reasons.
TELUS Online Security scans the dark web and your accounts, alerting you if your personal information has been compromised so that you can take the necessary action if your information is compromised. In fact, you can check (and I encourage you) to see if your information has been compromised here.
About Text Scams
We’ve recently seen scams that are coming through on calls and texts. The latest appears to piggyback on the recent news about free refunds for license stickers. Sneaky! What should we know here?
Leigh: Knowing how real scams can appear, one way to help stop or help block online scams is with a solution like TELUS Online Security, which has multi-layered protection.
Secure VPN allows you to shop, bank, and chat safer on a private connection with bank-grade encryption, even while on public Wi-Fi!
And device security provides you with advanced layers of protection, to help you stay ahead of cybercriminals trying to steal the private and financial information on your devices.
About Online Payment Scams
Having payment options right from our phone devices is very convenient, how safe is this?
Leigh: While we need to monitor our accounts all the time, TELUS Online Security does that for you through Bank & Credit Card Activity Alerts which helps protect your finances against fraud with alerts that notify you of cash withdrawals, balance transfers and large purchases.
As I mentioned before, it’s important to have complex, unique passwords to protect yourself, especially with our banking and credit card information available at the tip of our fingertips.
While I understand that people feel overwhelmed by all the passwords needed today, I suggest using a password manager to help keep them all straight. They are simple to use and coordinate across all your devices.
We’ve turned to more shopping online over the past couple of years. For example, many sites offer the convenience of storing our credit card information on their sites for easier transactions. Generally, what should we be wary of?
Leigh: Whenever you engage with a site online, you’re leaving them with your personal data. This includes seemingly harmless activities like shopping online and signing up for a rewards program. All it takes is for one of these organizations to be hacked for your data to be packaged up and sold online to hackers and identity thieves.
I expect that everyone reading this article would be surprised if I told them that they would all likely be able to find some of their personal information for sale on the dark web today. Anecdotally, for our team at TELUS Online Security, every single one of us found that our information was available on the dark web for sale after completing a historic dark web scan.
My scan identified 4 specific vulnerabilities! None of us had any idea that our information had already been compromised, but finding out is critical. You can check to see if your information has been compromised here: telus.com/DarkWeb
Is it better to make transactions through say, PayPal or Shopify?
Leigh: While I can’t speak to the best way to make transactions online, what I can say is that it’s important to note their individual protection measures.
As I mentioned, whenever you engage with a site online, you’re leaving them with your personal data and all it takes is for one of these organizations to be hacked for your data to be compromised.