Cyber-Crime Observed by Many Canadian Online Shoppers

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cyber CriminalWith Thanksgiving past and the holiday season just around the corner, many Canadians are turning their attention to retail store shelves, sales prices and discounts. Some are opting to do the majority of their shopping in brick and mortar establishments, while those who want to avoid the Christmas rush are going online.

But, as a recent survey indicated, many individuals who shop online have run into issues where their personal identity was put at risk.

The poll, which was conducted by internet security firm McAfee, found that nearly half - 46 percent - of Canadians said that they have encountered "malicious web activity" when shopping online, manifested by holiday gift scams, applications that install malware on their hard drives after pointing and clicking on a link and phony shipping notifications, to name a few. These scams involve a mailing service - which may or may not be recognized - sending a message to one's mailbox, informing them that their purchase has been shipped. In actuality, though, these are fallacious messages designed to trick online web users to click on a link so that harmful software can be downloaded onto a computer or wireless device.

With online holiday shopping anticipated to comprise much of Canadians' time spent buying - according to a 2013 sales outlook from professional services firm Deloitte - buyers need to be extra vigilant about what information they share over the Internet, according to Michelle Dennedy, vice president and chief privacy officer at McAfee.

"The potential for identity theft increases as consumers share personal information across multiple devices that are often under protected," said Dennedy. "Understanding criminals' mindsets and being aware of how they try to take advantage of consumers can help ensure that we use our devices the way they were intended - to enhance our lives, not inhibit them."

McAfee pointed to "12 Scams of Christmas" that Canadian consumers should be on the lookout for as the days get closer to Dec. 25, including bogus gift cards, receiving holiday "e-cards" that look real and notifications of seasonal travel packages that are perpetuated by scam artists.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center has additional identity theft avoidance tips to be cognizant of:

  • Review privacy statements. At the bottom of every legitimate online retailer, there should be a link that says "Privacy Notice." This should lists in detail what the company's policy is regarding the sharing of information to third-parties. Be sure to look this over before you enter personally identifying specifics like credit card numbers or addresses.

  • Look for bills in the mail. If you haven't gotten a bill several weeks after buying something, it's something that should be looked into. Calling the customer service center of a credit card company should help determine if there's an issue.

  • Don't use the same password.  Perhaps for convenience, many people will use the same password for all of their accounts, sparing them of having to remember so many. But doing this significantly increases the risk for identity theft. For all your accounts, make the passcodes are unique, writing each of them down to avoid forgetting them.

  • Avoid unsolicited retailers. The only companies that should be dealt with are those where you yourself have initiated the purchase. Never exchange financial information with an e-retailer if they made the first contact, unless the company is well-known.

  • Don't carry your Social Insurance Number. You may have an SIN card, but that doesn't mean you should have it on you wherever you go. Keep it in a safe place and only give out the number when absolutely necessary. Retailers should never need to know it.