Canadians fighting back against fraud and identity theft according to Equifax Canada survey
More people are checking their credit reports to spot identity theft
TORONTO, ON (March 1, 2023) – More Canadians than ever before, 97 per cent, feel vulnerable to fraudsters and identity theft, but they’re fighting back, with 94 per cent taking at least one step in the past year to better protect their personal data, a significant increase from 87 per cent in 2022. The most common steps include avoiding answering calls from unknown numbers or hanging up immediately (67 per cent) and double-checking their credit card and bank statements (63 per cent), according to a recent survey conducted by Equifax Canada in advance of Fraud Prevention Month.
Roughly half of the survey respondents indicated that they have taken additional steps to protect their personal information, including shredding documents (55 per cent), sharing less on social media (48 per cent), using two-step password authentication (48 per cent), and updating their passwords (47 per cent). Other steps taken include limiting their use of public Wi-Fi (39 per cent), checking their credit reports (33 per cent), installing or updating security software on their computers (31 per cent), and reporting fraud or identity theft when they see it (24 per cent). Despite these efforts, 26 per cent also confirmed they have been a victim of fraud or identity theft.
“Nobody wants to be scammed, and it’s great to see more people are taking steps to protect their personal data,” said Julie Kuzmic, Equifax Canada’s Senior Compliance Officer, Consumer Advocacy. "Since fraudsters often target people who make it easy for them, we encourage everyone to continue to be vigilant and take steps to protect their personal data. Routinely checking credit reports for suspicious activity offers a great opportunity to spot potentially fraudulent accounts, which Equifax can investigate at no charge. You can request a free copy of your Equifax credit report by phone, mail, in person, and online.” Consumers can log in to myEquifax to check their Equifax credit report for any unauthorized inquiries or new accounts.
Kuzmic also suggests for consumers to explore ID theft protection products that can help detect fraud sooner by alerting them to key changes on their Equifax credit reports and scores. Many tips for protecting personal information can be found on the company’s website (https://www.consumer.equifax.ca/personal/education/identity/), including:
Using strong and unique passwords
Being cautious of suspicious calls and emails
Carefully disposing of sensitive documents like bank statements and credit card bills
Being careful about sharing personal information and only sharing personal information and photo identification with trusted institutions
SOCIAL MEDIA - WHERE AND WHEN PEOPLE FEEL MOST VULNERABLE
Most of those surveyed (78 per cent) believe that social media poses a higher potential for fraud and identity theft through cyberattacks, scams/phishing, and data breaches. Almost half have noticed more suspicious or fraudulent links within their social media, and 18 per cent admitted they clicked on a fraudulent link in their feeds. Facebook was cited as the social media platform with the most perceived potential for fraud or identity theft, with 42 per cent believing it poses the highest risk. Younger adults aged 18-34 were more likely to say that any social media platform might hold potential for fraud or identity theft, with this age group also more likely to cite Instagram as having the potential to make them vulnerable to fraud.
Without question, Canadians feel most vulnerable when they are online with 85 per cent indicating this followed by performing everyday tasks “on the go” at 53 per cent and on holiday at 50 per cent. The survey also found significant differences between genders, with women being more likely to express feelings of vulnerability as a target of fraud in virtually every area, including online (88 per cent versus 82 per cent for men), “on the go” (57 per cent versus 49 per cent), on holiday (53 per cent versus 49 per cent), at home (32 per cent versus 24 per cent), and in a store (30 per cent versus 24 per cent). By contrast, men were more likely to state that they never feel vulnerable as a target for fraud (6 per cent versus 2 per cent of women).
“Fraud and identity theft are serious issues that can have devastating impacts on people financially and emotionally,” adds Kuzmic. “Our survey highlights the need for increased awareness and protection against fraud, particularly for those who do not take this type of crime seriously and those in certain regions who may be less aware of the risks.”
Quebecers were found to be significantly less likely to feel vulnerable to fraud in many areas compared to those in the rest of Canada, mainly when using social media (19 per cent versus 30 per cent, respectively) or when using Wi-Fi outside the home (22 per cent versus 31 per cent for the rest of Canada).
STOPPING FRAUD BEFORE IT HAPPENS
While more Canadians are taking steps to protect their personal data, there is a growing expectation that governments and businesses need to do more. Regarding government action, most respondents (92 per cent) felt that penalties for identity theft and fraud should be increased and that the government should do a better job of educating people on how to protect their personal data (86 per cent).
When it comes to shopping, most respondents (87 per cent) said they would be more likely to choose an organization or retailer with multiple steps in place to protect personal information, such as sending a code to their phone. However, there were some demographic differences in responses. Gen Z and young millennials (aged 18-34) were less likely to view identity theft and fraud as serious issues and less likely to believe that the government should increase penalties for those found guilty of fraud/identity theft compared to those aged 35 and over. Quebecers were more likely to feel that companies should do a better job in protecting personal information and would prefer a retailer that was more rigorous in safeguarding their information compared to those in the rest of Canada.
“We all have a role to play in safeguarding personal information,” said Kuzmic. “While younger adults may need reminding that criminals may take advantage of them if they don’t protect their personal information, all consumers should realize it’s in their interest to play a more active role in protecting their personal data. All generations and companies of all sizes should do their utmost to prevent and detect these crimes.”
Equifax surveyed 1,000 Canadians ages 18-65, Feb. 1-8. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
At Equifax (NYSE: EFX), we believe knowledge drives progress. As a global data, analytics, and technology company, we play an essential role in the global economy by helping financial institutions, companies, employers, and government agencies make critical decisions with greater confidence. Our unique blend of differentiated data, analytics, and cloud technology drives insights to power decisions to move people forward. Headquartered in Atlanta and supported by more than 14,000 employees worldwide, Equifax operates or has investments in 24 countries in North America, Central and South America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region. For more information, visit Equifax.ca/business.