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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

Cyber Safety: A Look At The Symantec Honey Stick Project

We’ve all felt that momentary feeling of panic when we can’t find our smartphones. It’s usually short-lived after a frantic search reveals it in an unlikely place, like the top of a bookshelf or between two couch cushions, but not all of us are so lucky. Sometimes, our carelessness isn’t confined to the home, and we end up leaving behind our Androids or iPhones in coffee shops, restaurants, and a variety of other public places. If we don’t notice the absence immediately and double back to the last place we used it, there’s a chance a stranger may snatch it up. Unfortunately, it’s not just the loss of a costly phone and all of your photos you have to worry about, as a recent experiment conducted by Symantec has revealed. For those who use their devices for work, it can result in damaging identity theft.

Symantec is a world leader in cyber security and is the organization behind Norton Anti-Virus. The security company is known for its annual Internet Security Threat Reports that analyze the different kind of online breaches that occur. Back in May, we took a look at their breakdown of 2015; however, Symantec intermittently produces other reports and studies on the status of security. Today, we’ll look to a report they’ve called, “The Honey Stick Project”.

Conducted in 2014, the Honey Stick Project involved the release of 60 unprotected smartphones in 6 cities across Canada, including our very own Toronto. Each device was loaded with simulated corporate and personal data, as well as a way for Symantec to monitor how they were used if they were found. Their results may surprise you. An astounding 93% of phones were accessed for data once discovered — but not necessarily with good intentions. In 90% of cases, the device was accessed for data other than the owner’s contact information, while only 55% of these cases ever attempted to make contact with the owner to return their device.

Let’s take a look at a breakdown of the numbers to see what kind of information was accessed in these unprotected phones.

  • It took an average of 0.75 hours for a smartphone to be found and accessed.
  • 83% of all phones showed access to personal apps and data, which included photos, online banking, webmail, and social media.
  • 63% of phones showed access to corporate apps and data, which included HR cases and salaries, corporate email, and remote administrative apps.

The findings highlight the need for security protocols for smartphones. Without it, a lost and unprotected phone poses significant risk to personal and corporate privacy. People (even Good Samaritans) are naturally curious, and they will access applications with sensitive financial and intellectual data if they can. That’s why it’s important to install essential security measures on devices, especially if they’re used for work. These measures — such as passwords, encryption, and remote ways to lock or wipe the device — are the only way to prevent access to confidential data.

Hoping a phone will never get stolen or go missing simply isn’t enough precaution. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we lose the very thing we try to protect — in which case, it’s better to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Follow the appropriate security measures for personal and corporate devices, and don’t forget to destroy them properly when you’re ready to upgrade.

Our electronics act as a doorway to confidential information. Don’t give anyone the key by leaving it unlocked. Take the appropriate steps to secure it throughout its lifetime (and when you’re ready to throw them away), and you can keep your personal and corporate data private — the way it should be!

Add comment November 14th, 2016

Medical Theft is No Laughing Matter

On the surface, the unauthorized use of your OHIP card doesn’t seem too bad. What’s it to you if someone schedules a visit with their doctor under your name? A check-up is just one of the many health services that comes free as a resident of Ontario. Unfortunately, this basic medical physical isn’t why fraudsters steal medical information. An Ontario Health Insurance Plan card is sold for approximately $1,000 on the street so that fraudsters can access treatments and pharmaceuticals without providing their own name, which can have detrimental consequences for your health and your wallet.

Why It’s Bad for Your Health

Anytime you use your health card to access treatment from your family doctor, a hospital, or any therapy clinic, a record will be made in your file for the treatment you’ve undergone. If your OHIP hasn’t been cancelled and flagged as stolen, there’s no way for these medical centres to recognize their unlawful use. A thief can use your medical information to access treatment and drug therapies of their own, and the health care they receive will be recorded on your file. This can have a negative effect in your life, as your real and fraudulent medical information will mix, creating a confusing history of ailments, disorders, drug regimes, and therapies an attending doctor must parse through. Incorrect medical notes may be added that can prevent you from accessing care that you need.

Why It’s Bad for Your Bank Book

Unless you’re receiving emergency medical care in hospital, these mistakes in your medical history can be rectified simply by having a conversation with your family doctor and removing the false information. What’s far more damaging are the financial effects of these fraudulent treatments. Your OHIP only covers so much, leaving many treatments and prescriptions as out-of-pocket medical expenses. When your medical identity is stolen, a thief will use your contact information and any private medical insurance you have under your name to pay for these services. Eventually, you’ll receive a bill in the mail for a treatment you never underwent; or you’ll file for a reimbursement for expenses from your insurance and find out you’ve already used your annual maximum.

How You Can Prevent it

Protecting your personal information is the easiest way to avoid medical theft altogether. Make sure you never leave your OHIP or SIN cards unattended and don’t give out these numbers to anyone but your trusted medical providers. Should you lose or have either of these cards stolen, cancel them immediately by contacting your local Service Canada and Service Ontario offices.

When you receive any medical invoices for uncovered treatments and medication, keep these safely in your records so that you can file them correctly with your insurance company and the Canada Revenue Agency in time for taxes. For tax purposes, you’ll need to keep these records for at least 7 years in case of an audit. When this time frame has elapsed, be sure to call us to schedule a one-time purge of your medical records. Our NAID-certified mobile shredders can eliminate the information kept on these files without a chance of retrieval. Unlike simply throwing out these documents in the trash with the rest of your garbage (in bins that identity thieves can search), our mobile shredding will make sure identity thieves are incapable of finding and using your personal information. Give us a call before you toss any medical documents — your health and your wallet will thank you!

Add comment October 25th, 2016

Identity Theft Resources: A Guide for When the Unthinkable Happens

Identity theft, as a rule, knows no boundaries. Private businesses, medical centres, individuals — even the deceased — are under threat of fraud at any given day. For those running a commercial or medical enterprise, securing our shredding services is an occupational imperative, as there are both provincial and federal laws regulating the way in which personal information is destroyed. Failure to adhere to these policies can result in the company or health centre facing harsh fines. Unfortunately, the laws that motivate businesses to take the appropriate actions to protection confidential information don’t exist for individuals. With no law policing the way they dispose of personal information, the only punishment they face is the fallout of becoming a victim of fraud. Sometimes, this isn’t enough to motivate people living in the GTA to secure our residential shredding services.

According to the latest report published by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Ontario has the highest number victims in the country. They say hindsight is 20/20, which is why many of the new customers we greet each month reveal they’ve been victims of identity theft. It’s only after they’ve had their personal information stolen and used to open fraudulent account that they realize the importance of storing and disposing of confidential material like tax returns, financial statements, account numbers, and contact information.

Our number one mission is to prevent identity theft from ever happening, which is why we provide the GTA with dependable mobile shredding services. But barring that, we want to provide our neighbours with the support they need in order to recover from fraud quickly, with as little impact on their finances as possible. That’s why we thought it prudent to publish this helpful list of resources for those who are currently struggling with theft. Though by no means exhaustive, this list includes several organizations that can help you manage the effects of fraud.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC)

The CAFC is Canada’s primary agency that collects information about fraud, and they’re an important resource for those who have found themselves victims. They have a convenient online method of reporting an incident of fraud. They also provide key information about popular scams and ways to protect your information in the future.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

If you suspect your personal information was leaked by an organization or business, then it’s important you get in touch with this government body. They provide you with the support you need in order to file a complaint against the business in question.

Credit Reporting Agencies

There are two major credit bureaus in Canada, and we suggest you contact both. Inform TransUnion and Equifax that you have been a victim of fraud and ask that a fraud warning be placed on your account. You may also want to ask for your credit report, to understand where and how you were defrauded.

Identification Agencies

In the event that your personal information was used to create new identifications, you’ll need to inform the appropriate department of the theft and to request for new ID. For a new passport, you’ll have to contact a Passport Canada office. For a compromised Social Insurance Number (SIN), you’ll need to contact your nearest Service Canada office. For provincial forms of ID, such as your driver’s licence and OHIP card, you’ll have to contact a Service Ontario office.

Of course, in addition to the organizations listed above, you must absolutely contact your banking institution and your local police department. A report must be made with both of these institutions in order to control the extent of the theft and to pursue any legal action against the thief who stole your personal information.

Once all of these organizations have been alerted of your predicament, the final number you need to call is ours. One quick phone call to our offices to set up a regular shredding appointment will protect your personal information, preventing it from being taken and used against your will. Give us a call and join the individuals and businesses across the GTA who have taken this final step to protect their confidential material.

Add comment October 13th, 2016

AAA NAID Certification — Accreditation You Can Trust

Now that identity theft is not only a crime that’s here to stay but actively growing in frequency, the search for a shredding service that can help you dispose of your confidential documents is critical. But it’s a search fraught with choice, as the GTA is inundated with shredding companies offering professional document destruction. Many of our customers, before they experience our shredding first hand, ask what puts us ahead of the pack, and our answer is simple. We don’t try to win their business by using empty marketing rhetoric, like speedy service and superior customer service. We provide them with cold, hard, quantifiable facts, like our AAA NAID certification.

The accreditation awarded by the National Association for Information is a benchmark for the document destruction industry. It’s the primary credential for any service that provides secure shredding services, as it guarantees competency in following accurate disposal laws and security procedures. Without a NAID membership and an AAA certification, a shredding company doesn’t satisfy industry standards or federal laws regarding the destruction of personal information. Their failure to adhere to these laws could result in an information leak that puts your company’s reputation and your client’s information at risk.

NAID is a third party trade association governed by certified auditors, IT specialists, security professionals, and disposal experts who create and verify the regulatory requirements shredding services have to follow in order to meet international data procedures and data protection laws. Any company wishing to achieve their certification must meet their strict screening procedures and technical requirements. This vetting process involves examination of a shredding service’s operational and security procedures, including the ways in which documents are collected, the final size of the shredded pieces, and the screening and training methods employed in the hiring process.

Beyond the initial vetting process that awards shredding companies their membership NAID carries out regular, yet unannounced, inspections of their operations. Security auditors will arrive without advanced warnings and evaluate the security of their facilities, mobile shredding trucks, and procedures. These auditors, certified by a third-party company devoted to global security, have a checklist of items and activities that they look out for in order to confirm the shredding service’s continued compliance to NAID’s policies.

So far, only 900 shredding companies in the world have achieved AAA certification from NAID, and you can count Absolute Destruction amongst them. We’ve achieved our AAA NAID membership so that our customers can feel confident about the security of our residential, commercial, and electronic data destruction services. Regardless of the reason behind your call or the size or frequency of your needs, we offer secure mobile shredding in compliance with international data procedures and protection laws, including Canada’s very own PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) and PHIPA (Personal Health Information Protection Act).

Whether we’re visiting your home or your place of business, know that our bonded staff and professional services are guaranteed to destroy — without a doubt — any physical or digital material (and the personal information that they hold). And it’s all thanks to our AAA NAID certification. You can trust this accreditation more than any claim we can make about our business, which is why we proudly showcase our membership on our homepage. Give us a call when you’re ready to experience what it’s like working with an authorized shredding service.

Add comment October 7th, 2016

Thank You Very Much, Mr. Robot(o)

Our secure electronic data destruction services make up a good bulk of our business, as companies and homeowners alike recognize the danger of letting their discarded digital documents go unchecked. Though we don’t need it, our services have been vindicated by an early episode of the USA Network’s hit-series, Mr. Robot. For those of our readers who are following along with Mr. Robot’s second season, please don’t spoil us; we’re still a little behind. The first season, however, is fair game, and we’d like to recall a scene from its second episode.

Still reeling from his forced meeting with Tyrell Wellick, the main character, Elliot, decides to hack the CTO of Evil Corp. Halfway through the job, Elliot realizes it’s too easy to hack Tyrell, making him believe the CTO let him in order to get his digital trace. To hide the evidence of his hack, viewers watch the computer programmer completely dismantle his set-up. Elliot even goes as far as microwaving his SD cards and drilling holes through his hard drive in order to wipe any sign of his mistake from his computer.

This episode says a lot about how digital memory is stored and retained. In the sphere of the show, where elite computer programmers abound, the typical means average people use to delete information isn’t enough. Overwriting or reformatting the HDD several times is not only time consuming, it’s also not foolproof, as some of the data is retained. A dedicated and talented programmer will still be able to work around these overwrites.

Mr. Robot may be fiction, but it’s based in a world that’s almost identical to our own. We aren’t suggesting that those who take advantage of our electronic data services are using them to erase the evidence of illegal hacking, but we are suggesting that we live alongside computer programmers capable of getting around average means of digital file destruction. Simply dragging files and programmes to the recycling bin isn’t enough. If they find your discarded gadget and feel the need to go digging, they’ll be able to retrieve these documents and all of the information they once held. That includes financial account numbers, tax records, and contact information — all valuable data that can be used in identity theft.

The only way to permanently erase the information that is kept on your old computers, hard drives, and other digital accessories is through complete destruction. When the chips, CD-ROMS, and other data go through our mobile shredders’ teeth, there’s simple not enough of the original gadget to retrieve. We can guarantee destruction so your personal information is safe.

It doesn’t matter if you have a single gadget or a stockpile of obsolete devices. Regardless of how many phones, computers, and hard drives you need to discard, don’t throw them out with the trash. Not only will this negatively impact the environment, as our electronics contain metals and chemicals that have no business in our landfills, it can open you up to the risk of identity theft. Take a tip from Elliot, but don’t go through the difficulty of dismantling your device on your own. Make the smart choice by arranging an electronic data destruction appointment with our mobile shredders. It’s the only way to keep your digital information safe.

Add comment September 26th, 2016

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