How to detect online card scams

If you don't know what "phishing" is, it's not something you do on a relaxing vacation. Phishing is a form of fraud where crooks pretend to represent a legitimate business, and then try to obtain your credit card information, Social Insurance number, passwords, and more. card-phishing

According to antivirus company Symantec, 1 in 332 emails in Canada were identified as "phishing" schemes during the first half of 2012. Phishing attacks can happen over the phone, through email or even text message.

"Any person is susceptible to this crime," says Cpl. Laurence Trottier, a spokesman for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center. "In addition, [phone phishing] has no boundaries, as the calls can come from anywhere in the world. This makes it a lot more difficult for the police to resolve." The same goes for email phishing.

Fraud is a growing problem in Canada, with 6 in 10 Canadians targeted, often by crime rings. But only five percent of those who've been victimized actually report it to authorities.

"Often, the victims feel ashamed and guilty so they do not disclose it to their relatives or the police," says Cpl. Trottier. "Our statistics and information reflects only a small part of all frauds."

How to protect yourself from phishing attacks

The first step is to be immediately wary and on guard if someone you do not know calls you and immediately starts asking for your PINs, bank accounts, Social Insurance number or other details.  

"Scammers will often play the emotional card with people and create an element of time pressure, of urgency, which reduces the victim's time to realize what is going on," explains Cpl. Trottier. "In general, they will say and do anything to obtain your personal information. Consumers should trust their instincts and make it a habit to never provide personal information over the phone."

Also, make sure your antivirus software and personal firewall software is always up to date and use a spam filter to filter out unsolicited email. Never click on a link or open an attachment in an email message from someone you don't know.

What to do if you've been "hooked"

If you've become the victim of a phishing attack, immediately contact your bank or credit card issuer to have any affected accounts monitored or closed. If your Social Insurance number or any other sensitive information has been stolen, report your case to the credit bureau, the local police, and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. You should also be sure to request a copy of your most recent credit report as well, in order to correct any changes.

If you haven't lost any money or provided personal or financial information (relating to a fraud or scam), you can still report phishers by contacting the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre at 888-495-8501.

See related: The 3 most common credit card mistakes; New cell phone technology prevents credit card fraud

Updated August 10, 2012

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