Simple steps to protect yourself from fraud

You may think that you will never be a victim of fraud, but unless you take the right precautions it could happen to you

The two leading types of fraud in North America are identity theft and real estate title fraud.

You may think that you will never be a victim of fraud, but unless you take the right precautions it could happen to you.

Identity Theft In 2009, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received identity fraud reports from 11,095 Canadian victims, for a total loss of more than $10 million.

Real Estate Title Fraud Industry experts estimate that the average real estate title fraud amounts to $300,000 and cost Canadians as much as $1.5 billion a year.

The most common forms are mortgage fraud — when a buyer provides fraudulent information to secure a mortgage; and title fraud — when a person fraudulently assumes the identity of a homeowner and takes over title of the home, sells the property or arranges a new mortgage then takes the money and runs.

Avoid fraud frights with these defensive measures:

• Keep personal information private. For example, your Social Insurance Number (SIN) is usually required only for tax purposes or banking.

• PINs and passwords should never be shared with anyone. Don’t repeat them or other account numbers aloud where they can be overheard.

• Destroy all receipts and any forms containing personal info before putting these items in the garbage.

• Carry in your wallet or purse only the identification and cards you absolutely need. Keep others, such as your SIN card and birth certificate, in a secure place.

• Keep your chequebook in hand and your cards in sight when making purchases and take your receipts with you.

• Periodically review credit card and bank statements and credit reports and report any irregularities.

• Know billing cycles and follow up if your bills don’t arrive when they should.

• Protect your outgoing mail – use only post office collection boxes or your local post office. And don’t leave incoming mail in your mailbox.

• Delete spam, especially any email asking for personal or financial info; legitimate businesses would never ask for personal information by email or during an unsolicited phone call.

• Be prepared should your credit or bank cards, driver’s license or SIN card are stolen or lost by keeping a list that includes expiration dates and account numbers in a safe place.

• If you’re concerned, conduct a property search to be sure title to your home is in your name.

Fraud can ruin your finances and personal life. Your professional adviser can provide the information you need and strategies you can use to prepare for the potential effects of fraud.

J. Kevin Dobbelsteyn is a certified financial planner with Investors Group Financial Services Inc. His column appears every Wednesday.

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