People may try to steal your identity through online phishing, telephone scams and email spam, but mainly it’s done the old fashioned way – by rooting through your garbage.
People often toss out utility bills and credit card statements into recycling or the trash, and leave it outside for pickup. Even personal documents stored together in an unsecured location in a home, or mail left in the mailbox are a risk.
To highlight the growing problem of identity theft and the multitude of phone, email and Internet-based scams, the Better Business Bureau of Vancouver Island is hosting its second “Shred It! Secure Your ID Day” event on Friday.
In the parking lot at Tillicum Centre, the BBB and Access Records and Media Management will be on hand with a mobile shredder machine, complete with an external monitor to view the shredding drama. People can destroy up to five boxes of paper documents for free.
“Part of the Better Business Bureau mandate is to educate people on not being victims, so people don’t have their IDs stolen or fall victim to scams,” said Rosalind Scott, president of the BBB Vancouver Island.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre stats show 17,000 people reported falling victim to ID theft in 2011 and who lost a combined $13 million. Canadians lost $64 million last year in what police call “mass marketing frauds” – a catchall for telemarketing scams, email scams, Internet fraud and ID fraud.
During its inaugural event last year, Access Records destroyed more than 400 boxes of papers, about 10,000 pounds worth. The Rotary Club of Victoria will be on hand to take donations to charity, and Fountain Tire has donated a barbecue truck.
The BBB will also have an identity theft expert on hand to dole out helpful advice on avoiding scams and fraud. The act of shredding documents is no coincidence – Scott said the No. 1 trap to avoid is recycling un-shredded personal papers.
“The biggest trick is don’t leave personal documents lying around. Everybody gets credit card and bank statements in the mail and they can get stolen in recycling,” Scott said. “We call it dumpster diving. The prime source for scammers is going through peoples’ garbage. They’re not in there rooting for food.”
Shred It is on the leading edge of events across North America that will highlight ID theft and scams. Scott said she will speak to any group on Vancouver Island for free regarding frequent and common scams and techniques to avoid ID theft.
On top of that, the BBB-VI is helping launch “Scam Watch,” a Shaw TV program that is scheduled to air next month. Scott and Victoria police commercial crimes officers will highlight common scams and frauds each week.
“Unfortunately there’s no lack of scams and frauds,” she said.
Police across the region receive no end of reports of attempted and successful frauds and scams, especially with senior citizens. Canadians in their 60s are the highest targeted demographic for frauds.
Common scams include elderly people getting calls from people claiming to be a grandchild or nephew or niece who request money to get out of a jam (called the “emergency scam” or “grandparent scam”). Scammers hack email accounts and spam friends with fraudulent requests for money due to supposed trouble while travelling overseas.
Some people are still tempted by Nigerian email scams, inheritance scams, lottery and prize scams or foreign money order scams. Fraudulent “Microsoft” or “Apple” technicians have gained access to people’s computers through unsolicited phone calls.
“So many red flags come up, but unfortunately we live in tough financial times, where people get carried away trying to get something for nothing.” Scott said. “People need to stop and think: ‘Does this make sense?’ If you’re told you are a lottery winner, did you actually buy a ticket? Does it make sense that you’d get an inheritance from somebody you’ve never met from a country you’ve never set foot in?”
Shred It! is Friday, Oct. 19 at the Tillicum Centre outside Old Navy from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. People can shred up to five boxes of papers for free. For more see vi.bbb.org/bbb-business-events.
Check out the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/english/home-eng.html for information on the latest scams.