Cyber Security

Learn how to spot scammers and protect your personal information today

Everyone loves a good scare at Halloween, but some tricks are more frightening than others. 

Many scammers use creative tricks to get your personal information — like your date of birth and account numbers and passwords. Armed with your personal information, they can more easily access your bank or credit accounts and open new ones in your name. 

Watch out for these scary scams

Phishing scams: Scammers pretend to be from legitimate businesses or government agencies. They trick you into giving out personal information like your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers. 

  • How they do it: They can use email, text messages, social media or phone calls. They claim to be from a reputable company, like a bank, credit union, telecom or government agency (like the Canada Revenue Agency). They may offer a “too good to be true” deal or threaten you with a fine unless you provide your banking information. 

Remote access scams: The scammer tries to convince you that you have a computer or internet problem and you need to buy new software or pay them to fix it. 

  • How they do it: The scammer calls you and pretends to be from your internet provider or a tech company. They’ll tell you your computer has been sending error messages or has a virus. They’ll request remote access and they might ask for your bank or credit card details to “fix” the non-existent problem.

Malware and ransomware: Scammers trick you into installing software that allows them to access your files and track what you’re doing. They can also trick you into installing ransomware, then demand payment to unlock your computer or files.

  • How they do it: They email you or post online about a topical story. The link takes you to a fake website that instructs you to install software to read the story or view the video. Or they post ads on websites, offering free music or movie downloads.

Fake online profiles: The scammer sets up a fake profile on a social media or dating site and sends you a friend request.

  • How they do it: They pretend to be someone you know or a potential love interest. They play on your emotions — like saying they’re in trouble and need your help — to get you to give them money, gifts or personal details. 

How you can help protect yourself

  • Reputable organizations will never ask for your personal information through email or text.

  • Never respond to suspicious phone numbers and email addresses. Instead, use the phone number on the back of your bank or credit card. If someone is claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency, use the number provided on your Notice of Assessment.

  • Delete suspicious messages and ignore communications from unknown contacts.

  • Don’t reply to spam messages, even to unsubscribe, and don’t open any attachments or follow any links.

  • To verify a link without clicking on it, hover your mouse over it. Carefully check if it matches the expected website.

  • Update your antivirus software often on all your devices.

  • Never use the phone number or email address provided in a suspicious message or by an unsolicited caller. Instead, verify the information using the contact information listed on legitimate websites.

  • Never give your personal ID, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.

  • Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.

  • Never send money or banking information to someone you haven’t met in person (unless you’re paying a legitimate bill).

  • Never send money or other forms of payment (like gift cards) to a friend or family member online without verifying their request through a trusted second channel (like email or phone).

  • Report any suspected scams to local law enforcement and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Scammers often play on two emotions: hope and fear. If something is too good to be true (a free iPhone or a surprise tax refund), it probably is. 

But don’t give into fear. If someone calls or emails you out of the blue and says you’re in trouble, take the time to verify the information. Being cautious can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. 

And remember to regularly check your credit reports, including your Equifax credit report for any suspicious or unauthorized activity. If you sign up for Equifax CompleteTM Premier, you’ll get automatic alerts when there’s a key change to your Equifax credit report and score.

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