For plenty of families in the GTA, March Beak is a welcome escape from winter. After the latest surprise snow storm, we can’t help but search out our fun in the sun this March. If, like many Canadians, your family has plans of going abroad this week, remember to keep your personal information away from prying eyes on your vacation. The crew here at Absolute Destruction have created a quick guide to ensure you have a safe and fun mid-winter getaway. But don’t worry if you plan on having a staycation this year. We’ve got a list of local sights to take in with your family, too.
Whether it’s the UK, Cuba, or somewhere in Asia calling your name, don’t let your destination fool you. Though most countries are perfectly safe to visit, we tend to let our guards drop while we’re on holiday. Follow these steps to make sure you don’t accidentally share more than your photos this March Break:
- Only bring the cards you need for your holiday: You can pack your suitcase as full as you want, but when it comes to your wallet don’t subscribe to the same philosophy. You should only bring with you the essential identification and payment cards that you absolutely need for your trip. Don’t bring your SIN or birth certificate. In the unlikely event your wallet gets stolen, these pieces of ID can be used to steal your identity.
- Let your bank know you’re travelling: Notifying your bank of your plans is a simple and easy way to keep you protected. Our banks routinely monitor our accounts and look out for suspicious activity. By letting it know you intend to be in another part of the world, you’ll avoid the frustration of having your accounts put on hold temporarily as your bank investigates these unusual purchases around the world. It can also help your bank catch any suspicious activity happening in your home town while you’re supposed to be away.
- Destroy old travel documents: Selfies and souvenirs aren’t the only things we bring back with us after a long trip. We tend to keep travel documents like hotel receipts, boarding passes, and other invoices recording our financial information. Like anything that contains personal information, these papers should never see the inside of your garbage bin. You should always make sure confidential material is disposed properly. Call us for a one-time purge to destroy these documents, as well as any other files or electronics you have in your home office.
Staying secure is pretty simple, even when you’re miles away from home, but escaping the overcast city for a tropical resort isn’t the only way to celebrate March Break with your family. This year, we’ve scoped out some local hotspots that could pose as a fun and interesting way to spend the week.
Submerge Yourself into the ROM’s Blue Whale Story
The Royal Ontario Museum debuts its Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story this March. The special exhibit shares the work of 2 marine biologists who recovered two of the nine blue whales that died off the coast of Newfoundland when they were trapped by ice in 2014. In addition to the 80-foot blue whale skeleton, the exhibit offers hands-on activities that explore the global decline of the blue whale population.
Check in at the Ontario Science Centre
There’s always something fun and enlightening scheduled at the OSC. This March Break highlights Biomechanics: The Machine Inside, a special exhibit that examines the way living things have evolved and continue to function in response to the world around us. On loan from the Field Museum, The Machine Inside reveals the reasons different parts of the human body work compared to other species.
Explore a National Park
This year marks Canada’s 150th anniversary, and Parks Canada is celebrating by issuing free Discovery Passes to all Canadians. Put your pass to use this March by exploring Rouge Park, the only National urban park in the GTA. You can also use your Discovery Pass to cover the admission to the HMCS Haida and the Trent-Severn Waterway marine conservation sites. Check out the Parks Canada website if you haven’t already ordered your pass.
Whether you intend to leave on a jet plane or organize a local adventure, let us know what your plans are. However you mean to celebrate the break, we hope you and your family enjoy it. And remember, get in touch when the fun is over and you’re ready to dispose of your documents.
March 21st, 2017
Mobile Antivirus Protection: Is It Worth It?
If you watched the last American election unfold, then you’re aware of the email scandal surrounding Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Amongst a variety of other reasons, she may have lost the election (but not the popular vote) because of her use of an unsecured mobile phone and private email server. It was one of the main issues Trump used to disparage Clinton during his campaign.
It’s funny how things have come full circle.
Not even a full month into his presidency, Trump is still using his personal Android when tweeting from his personal account, and recent reports have revealed he secured his @POTUS account with a Gmail address. Meanwhile, Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary and Communications Director, managed to tweet his Twitter password not once but twice.
In a world where some of the most powerful men risk security breaches, we can all appreciate the value of mobile security. We may not be the leader of the free nation, but the behaviours we indulge in on our own, less important iPhones and Androids can still result in severe consequences.
Back in November, we discussed Symantec’s Honey Stick Project, an experiment to see how quickly unsecured smartphones are found and breached. The results were staggering. Those mobiles that didn’t have any password were accessed within three-quarters of an hour, exposing personal information (like photos, banking, and social media apps) and corporate data.
But most of us understand the need for PINs on our cellphones in case we misplace them in public. It’s how we use our smartphones online that’s earning attention. As more and more malware are targeting these devices, your Android is susceptible to viruses that could expose your personal information. Google Play has seen an increase in the number of malware-affected apps on its servers. The question becomes whether or not mobile anti-virus protection services are worth it.
According to Chris DiBona, Google’s Open Source Programs Manager, these anti-virus protection services are as predatory as those malicious apps. A virus operates differently from those corrupting our Macs or Windows computers. Online security issues with our phones tend to come from malicious apps that phish for personal data — apps that you have to choose to buy and install. Smart use of your smartphone is a far better form of prevention than any anti-virus program claiming to protect your data.
As our smartphones evolve, this may change. Our Android has replaced our wallets, contact books, and photo albums, making them a huge target for those looking to extort your personal information. Until their methods of snagging this info changes, your best bet would be to:
- Investigate apps thoroughly before you download them
- Only download apps from trusted sources
- Lock your cell phone with a password
- Equip your corporate phone with a remote wiping service in case of theft
- Use our secure electronic data destruction services when you’re ready to upgrade
By following each step, you’re increasing your chances of keeping personal or corporate information safe on your mobile. Ultimately, it’s up to you how elaborate you want to go in order to protect yourself, but it’s safe to say you won’t need mobile anti-virus protection for the time being. Just take this advice into consideration and use your smartphone with discretion, and remember to call us the next time you decide to upgrade.
February 21st, 2017
There’s no doubt about it — Valentine’s Day is one of Canada’s most popular non-statutory holidays. Just over 80% of the country celebrated it this year by exchanging chocolates and candy, going out for a romantic candle-lit dinner, and — of course — sending love notes and cards. As a company that sees its fair share of paper on the average work day, we can’t help but focus on these cards.
It’s called the Hallmark holiday for a reason, with as many as 1 billion valentines sent each year. But contrary to popular belief, the tradition predates the greeting card company and can trace it origins to Late Antiquity.
Early Beginnings: Roman Fertility Festival & the Christian Church
Some historians believe our modern Valentine’s Day has ties to an ancient Roman fertility festival called Lupercalia. It was held every February 15th for over 1000 years during the Roman Empire as a way to ensure a successful growing season in the upcoming spring. Priests would sacrifice animals to appease Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, but over time, the festivities evolved to include human fertility and Lupercalia became as much a festival about sex as it was to do with crops.
By the 5th century CE, what went on during a typical Lupercalia festival was deemed inappropriate by the Church. In a bid to placate festival goers, the Church attempted to Christianize the celebration by making the 14th of February Saint Valentine’s Day. Who this saint was is still a mystery to this day, as there were several clerics who shared a surname and martyrdom in common.
One priest was sentenced to death for having defied Emperor Claudius II’s decree that banned young, army-bound men from getting married. Another story suggests Valentine helped Christians escape from the inhumane conditions they experienced in Roman prisons. But perhaps what solidified the name Valentine with gestures of love is the story of one imprisoned individual who signed a love letter with “from your Valentine” to his sweetheart before he was sent to death.
A Growing Tradition: Middle Ages, Victorian England, & the Mother of the Valentine
While the mysterious figure of Valentine was cast as a heroic and romantic individual in the face of hardship, the ties between love and the 14th only grew over the years. In the Middle Ages, many people believed the day to mark the beginning of songbirds’ mating season. By the 15th century, people began exchanging valentines with their loved ones.
By the 17th century, Valentine’s Day was a popular holiday celebrated in the UK, with many people sending notes and gifts to their significant others. But we can thank a woman named Esther A. Howland for our tradition of sending cards. Known as the Mother of Valentine, she helped mass produce these cards in the 1840s, and by 1900 printed cards overtook handwritten letters in popularity.
It’s easy to mistake the holiday as a Hallmark creation when you take a look at their stores. Decked top to bottom in red, pink, and white, the greeting card company takes advantage of this commercial holiday. It’s the biggest occasion to send greeting cards in the world, second only to Christmas. Many of us find it hard to resist, and we’ll buy these cards as well as chocolates, candy, flowers, and other tokens of affection.
Over the years you may have amassed quite a pile of these notes and presents, but we don’t recommend you throw them out. We especially don’t suggest you shred them, as only confidential material containing personal information needs our complete destruction — although you can always add them to the container to be shredded with financial documents if they’re from someone who broke your heart. For those notes sent from you sweetheart — keep them. They can be nice reminders of your relationship when you look back on these keepsakes.
February 16th, 2017
We know how it sounds. How can synthetic identity theft pose a genuine concern for Canadian citizens if it isn’t real? Well, for one thing, it’s not as artificial as its name implies. Synthetic identity theft uses a mixture of authentic and fabricated information to create a completely new identity or — in some cases — even multiple identities. Unfortunately, fraudsters using this technique typically target those who have a small credit footprint, like children and the deceased, pairing their Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) with fake names, addresses, and other details. This fusion of real and false information makes it difficult to track and even easier for criminals to get fake licences, passports, and credit card accounts — which is why we here at Absolute Destruction think it’s necessary to shine a spotlight on this emerging crime.
Children, the deceased, and anyone lacking an established credit history are at risk of becoming a victim. Synthetic fraudsters target these individuals on purpose. When the genuine identity associated with a SIN has little to no credit, it also means they likely have a thin or non-existent file in the financial world. As a result, it’s incredibly easy to open accounts with these numbers, as the owners are unlikely to check their credit reports and there aren’t any security checks put in place to safeguard against fraud. They’re a blank slate waiting to be taken advantage of.
This tabula rasa creates the ideal opportunity for criminals. Using a real SIN and a fake name, they apply for a credit card. Though this initial application is more than likely denied, the process forces credit bureaus to acknowledge both the enquiry and the “person” behind the application. The fraudster has begun to create their own credit history that will make them more desirable by other organizations in the future. Eventually, they’ll be able to open multiple accounts with various institutions and fabricate what looks like a strong borrowing history on paper. With that, they can visit Service Canada to create licences and passports under fake names. In the long term, a criminal will use this established identity to open and maintain accounts with higher borrowing limits before maxing them out.
Here in Toronto, it’s a growing concern for the police. In fact, Detective Constable Mike Kelly calls the fraud ‘infinite mischief’ since criminals will encounter very few limits to their scam when using a mixture of real and fabricated information. In 2013, Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency, estimated there were no more than 200 investigations of synthetic identity theft each month. Now they estimate that number has skyrocketed into the thousands, potentially costing Canadians a billion dollars each year.
The solution to this scam, like so many other cons, is simple: keep personal information protected. Your SIN should never leave the house, nor should it ever be shared with anyone but a trusted employer, financial institution, or the government. The same goes for your children’s or a lost loved one’s information. When you’re ready to dispose of any document that records this number or any other piece of personal information — whether it’s your own or a loved one’s — make sure it’s disposed of properly with our mobile shredders. We’ll make sure it’s incinerated so no criminal can retrieve your confidential information.
Synthetic though it may be, this method of identity theft has very real consequences for its victims. Make sure you protect yourself with safe handling of your SIN and personal information. When in doubt, give us a call to dispose of your documents.
January 30th, 2017
Identity theft has become the country’s most frequent non-violent crime. In 2014, at the time of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s last Annual Statistic Report, approximately 15,000 people were victims of fraud and identity theft. To us, the GTA’s premier document destruction company, that’s 15,000 people too many.
The ‘how’s and ‘why’s may differ from case to case, but we’re willing to bet many of these victims weren’t aware their personal information was being used until it was too late. They remained blissfully ignorant until they noticed large quantities of cash and credit had already been spent. Today, we’re going to explore this suspicious activity, in the hopes we can educate our readers about identity theft’s early warning signs. When you know how to identify these clues, you can start repairing your finances faster.
In terms of your financial accounts, the red flags of identity theft include the unexpected. If you go online and experience any of the following issues, you’ll want to contact the affected account right away.
- You notice there are several inexplicable withdrawals from your chequing or savings accounts
- You see charges on your credit card’s e-bill for purchases that you can’t explain
- A detailed report of your credit reveals a rating that’s much lower than your last check-in
- Your legitimate applications to creditors are unexpectedly rejected
While your e-banking and credit card accounts will reveal the evidence of misspent cash in the form of black and white numbers, there’s equal proof in the letter — or phone call. Whenever you receive any kind of message from an unfamiliar company or organization about an account in your name, your suspicions should be raise. The following list will tip you off about hacked finances:
- You receive a phone call or letter from a creditor that you’ve never conducted business with before, and they contact you to inform your application has been received, approved, or rejected
- You receive bills and credit card statements in your name for accounts that you never applied for
- You receive any letter regarding accounts you did not open
- The CRA contacts you about taxes that don’t match the one you filed
- A distinct lack of statements and bills that you normally receive via Canada Post
- A collection agency contacts you about a defaulted account.
Don’t ignore any of the above warning signs. They may very well be your only chance to prevent your case of identity theft from ballooning and affecting more of your credit and good name than it already has. As soon as you experience one or a combination of suspicious activity, you’ll need to start making preparations. For more information about the organizations and accounts to contact in the case of suspected identity theft, refer to August’s post about the other channels of communication you’ll need to follow in order to properly record, stop, and recover from this incidence of theft.
Our regular readers will be familiar with these steps. They’re an exhaustive list of time-consuming and stress-inducing set of instructions that can take a toll on the victim. It’s simply much easier to prevent becoming a victim in the first place.
As the GTA’s preferred mobile shredders, we can help people all around Lake Ontario strengthen their defences against fraud and identity theft. Take a look at our one-time clean-ups and purges, commercial and residential services, and electronic data destruction to see which of our secure processes will work best with your needs. A helpful representative is only a phone call away, and they can help you make the right choice. So pick up the phone today. Together we can make sure you don’t encounter suspicious activity in the future.
January 23rd, 2017
With the holidays and New Years behind us, the crew at Absolute Destruction is wishing you and yours only the best for 2017. We’ve got some great expectations for the upcoming months, and we hope to share our enthusiasm as we make our appointments across the GTA. You may wonder why we’re so optimistic about the future. It has everything to do with the time of year. Forget about post-holiday blues. We recognize the New Year for what it is: carte blanche. Our brand new calendars signify a clean slate, which is something we can all appreciate after a year like 2016! More importantly, it’s the ideal opportunity to take stock of our lives and re-evaluate our priorities.
Part of the New Year tradition is creating our list of resolutions. After the indulgent holidays (a time when drinks were flowing and plates were full) many of us will promise healthier habits in the month to come. Diet and exercise are always popular goals, as is saving money and, conversely, spending more money on holidays. As you pen your New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget to add a very important goal to the list: security. Identity theft is the fastest growing non-violent crime in the country, so it’s important you protect yourself properly.
Though we wish you all the best with your other resolutions, we can’t exactly help you hit the gym every night, nor can we get you to skip dessert. What we can help you with, on the other hand, is protecting your personal information from fraudsters. We’re a uniquely qualified team servicing the GTA with secure document and electronic data destruction services, and we’re ready to help individuals, families, and businesses tackle their shredding goals this year and beyond!
When you schedule a regular pick-up or a one-time purge, you’re also helping us meet our goals this year. We want to share with the GTA our unparalleled on-site shredding services, so fewer Canadians have to experience the costly and frustrating consequences of identity theft. We’re also committed to the environment with eco-friendly practices. In a typical year, our recycling programs manage to save:
- 11,135 trees
- 4,585,000 gallons of water
- 2,685,500 kwh in energy savings
- 1,637.5 cubic yards of landfill space
- 39,300 pounds of air pollution
We wouldn’t be able to boast these numbers without your help, so we’d like to thank you for choosing Absolute Destruction for all of your shredding needs. Together, we can make the world a better place, while keeping your personal information safe one shredded piece of paper at a time. It’s just that easy.
If you’re ready to get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions, give us a call. Our helpful representatives are available to answer any of your questions. We can also recommend the ideal frequency of our visits to satisfy all of your needs. Whether it’s a one-time purge or a weekly pick-up — a visit to your home or your place of business — we’re here to help you stay secure in 2017 and beyond.
January 17th, 2017
With the holidays just around the corner, we wanted to take this opportunity to wish our readers all the best that the season has to offer. We’d also like to remind our customers that we’ll be shredding right through to the New Year, providing the GTA with secure document and electronic data destruction. We’re ready to tackle any residential or commercial purge this December, or we can coordinate a regular pick up in 2017. Whatever it is you need done, we can arrange it — even if it’s a last minute gift for a security concerned friend.
Let’s be honest — it can be tough finding a gift for the person who has everything, especially when that everything starts to pile up in the corners. If you’re struggling to come up with a unique and practical present this holiday, consider the gift of a clutter-free home or a clean office with our on-site shredding services. We can accommodate any residential or commercial needs with one-time purges and recurring visits available depending on the amount of paper or electronics that need to be destroyed.
Whether it’s a regular engagement or a singular appointment, our fully insured and bonded representatives will arrive with our NAID-certified mobile shredders — eliminating any need for your loved one to drive their documents to a far-off facility. We’ve created a process that requires as little effort on behalf of our customers as possible. It also completely destroys any paper or electronic material, so the information they once stored can no longer be retrieved. Our “Guarantee of Destruction” is delivered once our mobile shredders have gone through everything, so you can feel secure about your personal information.
The benefits that come from scheduling a visit from our mobile shredders are two-fold. For one thing, we can help eliminate clutter. Wall to wall clutter exacerbated by papers and electronic junk contribute to stress and distractibility. The more there is, the more stress we feel. Our crew can help you achieve a clean and tidy office or living room just in time for the holidays, so you can achieve some inner-peace during the season. Secondly, our destruction services come with an additional “Guarantee of Recycling” so you can also give the gift of an environmentally friendly service. To date we’ve managed to save over 11,000 trees, 4.5 million gallons of water, and 1,600 cubic yards of landfill space.
Give a gift you feel good about and wrap up a certificate for our services. Whether it’s a gift for a loved one, yourself, or your business, you can always depend on the team at Absolute Destruction to deliver on secure, eco-friendly shredding. So give us a call before the big day, and schedule a visit with one of our trucks. Until then, we’d like to say happy holidays from our crew and the best of luck in the New Year.
December 30th, 2016