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Identity Theft: The Warning Signs

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.

Weird Records

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

Strange Communications

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.

Add comment January 23rd, 2017

Make Security Your Top New Year’s Resolution

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.

Add comment January 17th, 2017

Document Destruction: A Secure & Eco-Friendly Gift

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.

Add comment December 30th, 2016

Don’t Get Caught By The iTunes Scam This Holiday Season

A new kind of extortion scam has hit the nation, but it’s a cover of the same old song: scammers try to trick you out of money by claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency. Except this time, instead of getting you to send money through PayPal or some other account, they request payment in the form of iTunes gift cards. Strange though their demands may be, it’s a scam that’s gaining traction. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has received 46 complaints regarding this scam this year alone, with total losses amounting to over $85,000. This is obviously a new concern, so it’s something we here at Absolute Destruction want to discuss.

The iTunes scam uses fear in order to loosen money from your wallet. Posing as the CRA, criminals will make contact with an individual, claiming there’s an issue with their tax return. As a result, a considerable amount of money is owed. They imply through threatening language that the error could lead to involvement with the RCMP, imprisonment, and even deportation in some cases. If engaged, the scammer will suggest the use of iTunes gift cards as a way to avoid criminal charges.

That’s how Michelle Jaksic from Ottawa was convinced to spend over $12,000 on iTunes gift cards. After responding to an intimidating message, she spoke with a man impersonating a CRA officer. Once the scammer was assured he had Jaksic hooked, he claimed she could resolve the issue without involving the police by purchasing the gift cards and sharing the codes on the back. As was the case with Jaksic, once a criminal has the 16-digit code from the back of these gift cards, the money is gone.

The increasing frequency of this trick has caused iTunes to release an official statement regarding these scams, reminding customers their gift cards are only used to purchases items and services from their store. If an individual or organization claims they can be used to pay for other services, like back taxes, you’ve been targeted. The CAFC echo these sentiments, reminding Canadians the CRA would never ask for tax payments via gift cards as they already have your tax file on their servers. If you ever question the validity of any message alleging to be from the CRA, you can always contact the agency by email or phone and confirm they sent the message.

The basic structure of the iTunes scam is an important reminder that you shouldn’t share any important details with anyone but verified businesses and trusted government sources. Add the 16-digit code on the back of iTunes gift cards to the list of personal information you should keep protected. Like your contact information and financial account numbers, this code shouldn’t be shared until you no longer need it. In the case of a gift card, you can simply dispose of it in the garbage because you’ll have depleted its funds. In the case of your personal information, however, you’ll still need our secured shredding methods to dispose of it safely. Give us a call when you need help destroying your paper and electronic documents, and remember — always verify the source of any email asking for money, especially when it concerns your taxes!

Add comment December 19th, 2016

The Dos And Don’ts Of Online Shopping

It’s about that time again. With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us in the GTA are turning to our lists and checking them twice. There are only so many days left to pick up the remaining gifts we plan on leaving under the tree. While some of us are daring enough to brave the overcrowded parking lots, congested storefronts, and overeager salespeople, a growing number of individuals are turning to the online marketplace to escape the stress of holiday shopping. It’s estimated 51% of Canadians did their shopping online in 2014, with experts expecting this percentage to increase this year. If you count yourself amongst their numbers, we’d like to remind you to shop safe this season with the following guide to online holiday shopping.

DO verify the websites you visit — Some of the more successful scams created by criminals involve enticing shoppers to a fraudulent site using emails and links boasting unbelievable sales. To make sure you don’t fall for this trick, stick to those online retailers you trust. Confirm they have Secure Socket Layer encryption and Verified Web Certificates if you’re visiting a site for the very first time. And take note of how you can pay. If the retailer only accepts payment through PayPal, it’s unlikely they’re a legitimate business

DON’T save your information — What seems like a convenient time saver can actually increase your risks of identity theft. When your browser or a website asks to remember your credentials, always click ‘no’. It may take longer to type in all of your log-in details, contact information, and credit card number, but it ensures your passwords and personal information aren’t stored in your browser where it can be accessed by anyone on your computer.

DO create strong passwords — Most retailers will request you create a profile with their website before you complete your purchase. It may just be in your best interest to join their site, as members typically get access to special deals and promotions before anyone else. When creating a profile, be sure to develop a strong password. You can do this by avoiding names, places, or dates that could be easily guessed. Stick to PINs that have at least 8 characters that include a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols, and use a different one for each site.

DON’T shop at Starbucks — We have nothing against the coffee company; it’s their unsecured Wi-Fi that we have beef with. Any public, unprotected Internet connection is easily hacked and it will reveal all of the personal information (including payment and log-in details) you’ve used in your purchases. Whenever you’re browsing as you sip your latte, keep it to just that. Wait until you’re home on your own network to make the final purchase.

DO use one credit card — It doesn’t matter if it’s a Mastercard, Visa, or Amex; what’s important is that you have one dedicated card for all of your online purchases. That way it’s easier to keep track of every charge on this card and to spot errors. You can make this card work to your advantage by choosing one card that comes with cash back, bonuses, or other reward systems.

Though ‘tis the season to be generous, remember to be a Scrooge with your personal information. Our list of dos and don’ts may be simple, but they’re a great way of keeping your online shopping this holiday simple and fraud-free. Once your haul starts arriving, remember to get rid of the evidence with our secure mobile shredding. We’ll make sure the PI on your invoices and any other document is safely disposed of, so you can enjoy your holidays without any stress — well, except for worrying if you have enough stuffing for the big day, but we can’t help you that. For all of your paper and electronic shredding, on the other hand, we’re only a phone call away!

Add comment December 13th, 2016

Protect Yourself From Mail Fraud

After a summer spent playing a long game of will-they-or-won’t-they, it seems like Canada Post won’t be striking any time soon. This on the coattails of the door-to-door delivery controversy has tested the patience of Canadians, with many of us turning to private delivery services, such as FedEx and Puralator, as an alternative method of shipping parcels. As if the Crown Corporation hadn’t enough on its plate. Despite the seemingly endless number of junk flyers finding its way into our mailboxes, physical mail is slowly going the way of the dinosaurs. As many of us turn to email, it’s easy to forget about the significance of Canada Post’s service — particularly that of which they deliver. As the government’s preferred method of communication, our mailboxes see a variety of letters containing personal identification and financial records.

Our regular readers know that these documents are a mine of information for identity thieves. Anything relating to your taxes, licences and identification, and address are exactly the data they need in order to open false accounts in your name, and they’re willing to steal it in order to get it in their hands. Just this past February, the Toronto Police uncovered what they called a fraud lab in the downtown core, in which they found stolen mail used in a large identity theft ring. Their investigation revealed financial statements, cheques, bank documents, bills, and government identification were amongst the documents stolen from local mailboxes.

Mail theft has significant consequences for its victims. Canada Post has enacted initiatives in order to prevent mail theft and its resulting identity fraud. They also have a 5-part guide on how to keep your mail safe. Amongst their directives include:

  • collecting your mail every day,
  • using their mail suspension when on extended holidays,
  • making an official change of address when you move,
  • contacting their customer service should any mail fail to arrive, and
  • shredding any mail containing personal information, including contact and financial data.

Following the first four tips can ensure your mailbox isn’t the site of the next identity theft crime scene, but it’s the final step that peaks our interest. As the GTA’s premier mobile shredding service, we understand better than anyone the importance of destroying documents before we recycle them.  Mail containing names, financial statements, account numbers, health or SIN identification, insurance letters, and any other private document should never be disposed of with your regular household trash, as these bins are just as vulnerable to theft as your mailbox. It would only be a simple matter of going through your garbage on pick-up day in order to locate these documents.

Our professional services make following that final step easy. This is especially true if you are one of the thousands of business owners operating in Toronto and the GTA that receive a tremendous amount of mail. We can help save your employee’s time by eliminating these sensitive documents on your behalf using our NAID-certified mobile shredders.

Whether or not you personally send mail through the country’s postal service, mail workers will deliver important communication from the government and your bank to your home. Due to the sensitive nature of these documents, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on your mailbox. And don’t forget to shred anything you don’t wish to keep!

Add comment November 28th, 2016

Keep An Eye Out For These Top 4 Cyber Scams

The services we provide here at Absolute Destruction help you keep your physical documents and electronic devices out of the hands of thieves, and it’s an integral step in maintaining your personal and commercial privacy. But we know better than to think physical theft is the only way fraudsters attempt to get your confidential information. In an increasingly digital world, Canadians have to be careful with how (and with whom) they share their information online. While the Internet is full of legitimate sites you can safely visit to your heart’s content, you do need to surf with caution. You can unknowingly become the victim of a cyber scam. Keep reading to learn more about the most common fraud schemes affecting Canadians today so you can identify and steer clear of them.

Ransomware
As a sophisticated malware bent on extorting money from its victims, ransomware software is passed through email attachments and other downloadable files. Once opened, its virus is spread throughout the computer and infects its files and applications with an impenetrable encryption key. Scammers offer to decrypt the corrupted files but will only return full access to the affected computer for a fee. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee these individuals will carry out their decryption once paid, so the CAFC doesn’t recommend paying to unlock a computer. The best defence is, of course, prevention. Be aware of the attachments sent in emails, especially those in .zip formats. Only ever download them if you’re expecting that particular file from a trusted source. Don’t click on pop-ups that claim your computer has a virus.

Denial of Service (DOA) Attacks
Canadian businesses are beginning to report an increase in this particular extortion scam, wherein their website or internet services are interrupted. Much like the above ransomwear, perpetrators offer to reverse the interruption for a nominal fee; however it requires much more sophisticated security measures in order to prevent. Rather than simply avoiding suspicious downloads, dynamic protocols must be in place, including attack detection, traffic analysis, Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), and firewalls.

Investment Scams — AKA Boiler Room Fraud
Many of us see emails talking about lucrative business deals promising huge returns… as long as we’re willing to invest in shares and other financial assets. What sounds too good to be true is just that, as these investment opportunities are completely worthless. Unfortunately, not all of us can identify these as scams, especially those who are older.

Tax Scams — CRA Impersonators
Let’s face it — tax time can be stressful for a lot of Canadians. Organizing all of your financial comings and goings accurately takes time and a lot of know-how that some of us don’t have. The fact that we face a hard deadline when filing only adds to the strain. A well-timed phone call or email from a source pretending to be the CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) can take advantage of our fears, as fraudsters will claim the victims have misfiled and now owe the government money. Perpetrators will ask for debit and credit card payments, as well as personal information over the phone or email. It’s important to remember the CRA would never ask for your contact or financial information in such a way. If you ever find yourself confronted with such a call or email, check with the CRA to see the details of your return.

Cybersecurity starts with knowledge. Knowing what to look out for can keep you safe from the most popular online threats to your privacy. Make sure you never click a link or download a file of which you can’t verify the source. Businesses should invest in appropriate security protocol to keep their servers protected and employees educated. And everyone should give us a call. These actions, plus physical security achieved with our mobile shredders, will keep your personal information private. Period.

Add comment November 21st, 2016

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