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Canadians complacent about fraud, identity theft

(Special) – Despite rising incidences of fraud and identity theft, many Canadians are complacent about taking measures to protect their personal information and are not double-checking their financial statements, shredding personal documents or installing security software on their computers, a recent survey by Equifax has found.

The report by the credit rating agency found that attempts of credit card fraud have increased by 42 per cent over the last two years, with millennials being targeted in 48 per cent of all fraudulent credit card applications in 2018.

Suspected true name fraud, which occurs when an identity thief poses as a real person when completing a credit card application, also has increased by 84 per cent over the last five years.

The survey found that fewer Canadians are double-checking their financial statements, shredding personal documents or installing security software on their computers despite the increase in fraud and identity theft.

Almost 40 per cent of respondents said they have been victims of identity theft or fraud at some point and 88 per cent said they have taken some steps to protect their personal information. However, those numbers are declining as only 59 per cent of respondents said they double-check their credit card statements compared to 65 per cent two years ago when Equifax conducted a similar survey.

Similarly, people are shredding documents less frequently to 52 per cent from 57 per cent two years ago and only 35 per cent have updated their security software on their computers compared to 42 per cent in 2017.

“We are encouraging Canadians to be more proactive when it comes to securing their data by double-checking their credit statements, shredding personal documents and making sure their software security is updated,” Tara Zecevic, vice president of fraud, prevention and identity management with Equifax Canada said in an interview.

“A lot of people check their credit reports but it might only be after the fact that something has happened,” she said. “A lot of people also think that their software security is automatically updated. We are just urging people to be more diligent.”

Millennials appear to be less concerned about this issue than the general population. Fifty-three per cent feel vulnerable to fraudsters and identity thieves compared to 57 per cent of the general public, 70 per cent believe identity theft is becoming more prevalent compared to 82 per cent, 25 per cent believe identity theft happens to other people and it’s not likely to happen to them compared to 14 per cent for the general population, and 39 per cent believe they are not a target of fraud because they don’t have enough money compared to 29 per cent.

“Younger adults need to recognize the importance of preventing fraud before it happens,” Zecevic says. “There are so many little things consumers can do to help protect their personal information. It’s simply knowing what to do and making the time to do it.”

On a positive note, consumers are doing a couple of things right — such as sharing less personal information on social media (up to 43 per cent from 39 per cent in 2017) and checking their credit scores (up to 28 per cent from 21 per cent). Millennials checked their credit reports more than any other age group.

Fraud alerts are an effective way to help identify suspicious activity and help consumers better protect themselves against identity theft. A fraud alert placed on your credit reports alerts credit card companies and others who may extend you credit that you may have been a victim of fraud, including identity theft.

Consumers can place a fraud alert on their Equifax credit reports by calling 1-866-828-5961.

 

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.

Copyright 2019 Talbot Boggs

Talbot Boggs , The Canadian Press

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