In Discussions, Life

Secure your documents and identity from fraud & theft

Scam me if you can is one of the most comprehensive, clear, and factual books I have read (along with anecdotes) of how to protect your identity in this day and age from fraud and theft.

It was so good, I thought a post on this would be helpful with some key summary points (but you should absolutely 100% read this book)!

Be suspicious of everyone and everything by guarding your personal info off sites

Don’t talk about your family members names’, previous pets, birthday… honestly, we give out so much information while chitchatting to complete strangers, that it is unnerving.

Even on social media, I put everything on private and I don’t post my personal life online – who I am, who I talked to, where I went … especially in real-time, as it all gets recorded and can be used to recreate my identity easily.

I don’t even talk about my birthday or want birthday wishes.

I can actually go through my friends’ feeds and recreate their life. I know their birthdays, their kids’ names, their ages, their birthdays, address, etc.

If they ask for money/gift cards and have a sense of urgency, RUN

  • No professional agency or company will ever ask for cash, gift cards and wire transfers
  • If they’re bullying / pressuring you, stop talking
  • Don’t give unknown callers any information – no matter who they say they’re calling from.
  • Don’t ever wire money via Western Union, MoneyGram, prepaid debit card, cheques or cash to people as it is very hard to trace and get the money back
  • If they pretend to be a grandchild or someone you know, ask them identifying details only you would know like where they’re staying, or only things that a real relative should know

Call the official number back on the card or the agency to see if it’s a real case

I actually did this with a bank rep who told me he wanted to talk to me about my account and I told him I’d call back if he gave me a case number to reference.

You could ask for their employee ID, then call the actual number and verify that they indeed work there with their name and are able to handle your case.

You can also ask for a number to call back – they tend to not give you one if it isn’t legit.

If they tell you you’ve won something, RUN

Especially if you didn’t sign up or enter anything, they prey on our greed and our “WOW I GOT SOMETHING?”

You also won’t be sending fees to win money, so if they ask for $100 to release the payment, hang up.

Passwords are easily hacked if the database is hacked

  • Use 2-factor authentication
  • Don’t change your passwords too often – you’ll forget them
  • Don’t use one password for everything
  • Keep the password simple enough to remember
  • Always change passwords after your device has been hacked

Don’t use debit cards, use credit cards

Debit cards are a direct link to your bank account. If it gets wiped out in a wire transfer, that is very hard to trace, or recover. Credit cards – you aren’t liable for any fraud.

Limit your cheque writing and use gel pens

Gel pens like these work great as it is hard to wash off the gel ink to reuse it again.

I also personally keep a $0 account with no money for my chequing account, and transfer in cash when I need it.

I’d rather pay a $40 NSF charge if there is a fraudster, than to have them wipe out my cash savings, which I keep in other savings account (or split into two), with no cheques attached to it.

Go paperless

Ask for statements to be sent over e-mail, where you are logging into the official site and downloading the statement there.

Don’t charge your devices on anything or with anything but your own chargers

It can all get skimmed and your phone easily hacked.

Avoid public wi-fi and public computers

Just for browsing okay, don’t check your personal email or anything.

Don’t leave important documents lying around the home

Strangers coming into your home? Tail them. Don’t let them just wander off or go through your things without you around. They can easily snap shots on their phone and put the statements back without you knowing.

They can also steal information – blank cheques, etc

Try not to keep identifying information in your car

It may be mandatory in some cities, so check with your local officials, but it is suggested to not keep credit card statements, car insurance, or any registration documents in the car in case they get stolen and the information used against you.

Don’t lose sight of your wallet or personal items when you’re out in public

I know people who put their wallets down, OPEN on counters and then walk away to pick up a candy bar on the side .. I MEAN SERIOUSLY.

Don’t leave your purse lying around when you’re shopping – it is how I got it stolen once when I was a very young teenager, and I lost $60 my mother gave me to go buy food, and all my cards until someone saw it in the trash bin and turned it into the metro people.

By then, I already had my cards cancelled, new ones issued etc.

Anything with your name, address or last 4-digits of your credit card should be shredded

Credit card numbers can be reconstructed from the last 4 digits with high-tech number generators.

Your name and address are the first key bits of information they need to figure out how to steal your identity, along with your birthdate.

Even JUNK MAIL should be shredded. I tear out the name and the address every single time I get junk mail, I also ask to be removed from the lists, and I shred that piece of paper every time.

Shred everything with a crosscut shredder not a ribbon cut one

Crosscut shredders like this one I use, rip everything into tiny little pieces. Ribbon shredders shred documents that are then easy to piece back together again.

We also mix it all up and throw out partial handfuls of it each time we take out the recycling, so you can’t ever really piece together anything if it is all taken to the trash on different days.

Secure your actual mailbox

An open mailbox where people can easily drive by and pick up the mail, or walk by and steal stacks of envelopes is such an easy way to steal someone’s identity.

Put a lock on there, and just let the mail person be able to deposit the mail but not let anyone else just pick out anything they want.

Split your business and personal accounts

It limits loss of assets if you get hacked either way, but also it just makes tax keeping easier.

  • Don’t give your personal credit card to employees at the office
  • Don’t give your credit card number to anyone except a legitimate vendor
  • Bill-pay online instead of using cheques
  • Set up alerts on your account above a certain amount (e.g. $1)
  • Monitor your accounts often

Be wary of “professionals” and even charities

  • Don’t have your tax refund go to them first
  • Don’t get your taxes done by someone who takes a percentage of your refund
  • Don’t work with someone who promises a lot of money with zero work (e.g. inflating numbers or a stimulus payment or a huge refund)
  • There is no such thing as CRA or IRS endorsement of tax preparers
  • Regulated Charities that are official are the safest ones to donate to, not tiny ones you don’t know or even charities you hear of via your church or community organization
  • Don’t donate to GoFundMe or other places that ask for money UNLESS it is legitimate and you are willing to ‘lose’ the money for something that may not be a real situation

Don’t travel with your personal laptop if you don’t need to

You probably have logins & passwords automatically saved, so if your laptop gets stolen — bye bye accounts, and always shut it down when you’re not using it.

Pay in cash when you travel if possible

Debit cards, credit cards — it can all get skimmed from a small reader. Withdraw cash and then use it to pay for everything.

We do this when we travel and we have never had our credit cards skimmed yet.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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2 Comments

  1. PP Gal

    Where do you prefer to withdraw cash, at the airport upon arrival, ATM in hotel, or before leaving?

    And what do you do with the excesses foreign cash which cannot be easily exchange to CAD in Canada?

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I do it in the bank before I leave.

      We usually end up spending all of the foreign cash because we set a budget, and we try very hard not to go over. Whatever is leftover, I just bring home and keep it. I have a few coins/bills from various countries we’ve visited. If it is under $20, it isn’t worth it to change it back to anything.

      Reply

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