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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

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

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

Green Tips For Your Office

As the corporate world moves towards adopting sustainable and eco-friendly practices, you might be wondering how your own business can embrace the trend. Going green doesn’t have to be hard, and your office can be environmentally friendly with only a few minor changes to your usual routine. Making small decisions can go a long way towards making your office more efficient, economical, and – surprisingly – secure!

Energy efficient appliances and items are widely available at reasonable prices now, and the Government of Canada also has developed tax incentives for those businesses that embrace energy efficient alternatives. Going online and seeing what the government can help with is simple. You can find rebates, tax incentives, and even loans to fund appliance and fixture upgrades. The government’s Power Saving Blitz program awards small businesses up to $1, 000 in free products and installations for energy efficient electronics. In Ontario, the Water Efficiency Plan sets aside financial incentives for retrofitting your water systems to be less wasteful.

With the government’s help, you can use your tax breaks and rebates to purchase green products for your office. Converting your lighting to compact fluorescent lights (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) sources will cut down on your electricity use and your electricity bill. Installing occupancy sensors will ensure that these lights aren’t accidentally left on for longer than they need to be, as they are designed to turn off when the mechanism doesn’t pick up any movement within the room. That way, no energy (or money) is wasted when someone forgets to turn the lights off at the end of the workday.

The easiest way to cut down on waste is to remove the opportunity to create it. Readjust your company platform so that it relies less on physical copies of documents and memos, replacing those paper files with digital ones. They can be easily shared with a click of a button, and better yet, they take up little to no room in storage space.

Sometimes, going paperless isn’t a possibility. For when you have no choice but to print and store physical copies of your documents, be sure that your office is using post-consumer waste (PCW) paper products and packaging. PCW is made from discarded material which would otherwise take up space in overcrowded garbage dumps. It also reduces the amount of new trees felled in order to produce new paper products. Consider the paper company that provides office with its supplies carefully, ensuring that they use recycled material.

Eventually, your paper products will have to go somewhere, and it would be thoughtless to throw them out into the garbage bins when you’ve done so much to go green. Installing recycling bins is a must for any business, as is ensuring that your employees understand what can and cannot be recycled. Install separate bins for paper, metal, and plastic waste with guides above each bin to remind those that are unsure of what goes where.

Our shredding services can help with the installation of recycling receptacles, as we have a variety of consoles and containers designed specifically to store material until you’re ready to dispose of it. We can supply locked bins, tent cards, and canvas bags to facilitate paper recycling. Our service also includes picking up the full containers and ensuring that its contents are before it’s recycled to ensure any confidential material (like account numbers and client information) cannot be retrieved. For every metric tonne of paper that we recycle, your office contributes towards saving 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 4100 khW.

Hiring our commercial services is just one of the many ways to embrace green and push your office towards environmental sustainability. Along with outfitting your lighting with energy efficient settings and reducing your overall waste, shredding and recycling paper will decrease your negative environmental impact. It’s also one of the only ways to ensure that your business’ confidential material is never shared or distributed to the wrong people. Contact us today and we’ll help you get one step closer to being green.

Add comment May 31st, 2015

Tips For Home Office Spring Cleaning

For many Canadians, the arrival of spring coincides with the need to clean, de-clutter, and organize. As the days grow longer and the temperatures rise, there’s no better time than April to open up the windows and bring order to the space you call home. More than any other room, your home office requires a dedicated spring cleaning routine. Due to the amount of personal and confidential information that your office stores, it’s imperative you organize and dispose of documents properly.

With utility bills, mortgage and investment statements, credit and bank records, tax refunds, and every other receipt that passes your desk, it can seem like the room is a paper magnet. Since most account statements issue monthly, your desk and filing cabinet can accumulate an excessive amount of paper. For those on a spring cleaning high, this paper can be destined for the garbage bin without a proper review of their content. While this is a quick and sure-fire way of clearing your office of unnecessary clutter, it leads you down a dangerous path. By cutting corners in your record organization and disposal, you can open yourself up to financial risk and identity theft.

There are some documents that the inside of your garbage bin should never see. That includes the original copies of important records. Birth certificates, marriage licences, and wills can seem like obvious documents that you should keep a hold of, but the list also includes current and old life-insurance policies, pension plans, house deeds, and car titles. These should be kept forever in a secure yet accessible place in case you or your loved ones need to review them.

There are also documents that have a certain shelf life that you are required to keep by law. The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) suggests that you keep your old tax returns and their supporting documents for up to six years, as these can be requested at any time during this period if your file comes under review. Failure to produce past returns and their supporting documents can result in a false statement penalty which you would be required to pay. In order to avoid the stress of being audited and getting slapped with a fine, be sure to collect all parts of your past tax returns by year and file them away in your filing cabinet.

For those documents that aren’t important licences or essential to your tax returns, you still shouldn’t throw them out with the rest of the trash. Tax returns older than 6 years, credit and bank statements, and old bills and receipts have important account information that should never be left unattended. Criminals search through residential and commercial garbage in order to find confidential documents that list contact information, social insurance number (SIN), and account numbers. With this information, they can open fraudulent accounts and charge money in your name. A recent study by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) found that 1 in 6 Canadians are affected by identity theft each year, estimating a combined loss of $3 billion. Victims often end up paying out of pocket to cover the charges incurred under their name.

To ensure criminals never get their hands on an errant bank account or old tax return, schedule your spring cleaning to coincide with our one-time purge service. After you have organized your “need-to-keep” documents, our friendly and vetted staff can collect and shred the papers you’re keen to throw away. Once our mobile shredding trucks permanently destroy all of your records, we’ll issue you a ‘Certificate of Destruction’ as our guarantee your information will never be used against you.

If you’re ready to tidy up your office this spring, don’t hesitate in calling us today!

Add comment April 29th, 2015

Be Vigilant During Tax Season

With April 30th the last day to file an income tax return for 2014, many Canadians will be busy spending the next couple of weeks preparing their returns. If you, like millions of others, are currently sorting through receipts, T4s, and other slips, it’s important that you handle these documents carefully, particularly when you’re ready to dispose of them. Clever (and criminal) individuals can use the personal information recorded on these files against you — and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), over 1.6 million Americans were affected by tax fraud in 2013, amounting to $5 billion in losses. This money was pocketed by criminals, who used ordinary Americans’ information to file and deposit their tax refunds. Closer to home, over 31,000 cases of tax-related identity theft were reported in 2013 by Equifax Canada. While these numbers can be alarming for someone in the middle of filing their taxes, they also act as a cautionary tale. By following a few general guidelines this tax season, you can avoid becoming the next victim of tax identity theft.

In the case of false tax refunds, this can only happen if individuals are careless with their personal information. All a criminal needs (in Canada) to file a false tax return is a name connected to a legitimate Social Insurance Number (SIN). If the numbers are legitimate and the file isn’t randomly chosen to be audited, the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) has no way of knowing that return is false until you notice a discrepancy. Until then, the fraudster will be able to pocket any money that the CRA owes you.

Any document that lists your full name, address, account numbers, and (especially) your SIN should be kept close at hand, without any chance of being shared or seen by strangers. Since the CRA requires you to keep your past tax returns and their supporting documents for 6 years, these documents should be filed safely in your home. Once the 6 years pass and you’re ready to dispose of these documents, throwing them into your garbage or recycling bins is just plain irresponsible. These containers are accessible to anyone on the street, and all it takes is for one lucky criminal to check your bins the day that you throw out your documents.

Our document destruction services guarantee you avoid such a fate. We provide banker and file boxes for those records you need to keep, and we provide bags or lockable bins for those documents you want to discard. Once you fill these containers, our bonded service representatives will arrive at your home and transport them to our mobile shredding trucks, shredding the documents on site. We can also assist you in case you complete your taxes online. Our certification of destruction extends to any digital media (like memory sticks, hard drives, or CD-ROMs) that you use to store confidential material. Our representatives can pulverize these items so that it’s impossible to retrieve any saved information from their storage.

When you’re ready to dispose of your old tax returns, be sure to request a quote for our services to see how quickly we can help you. Our methods of destroying every trace of your personal information will protect your from tax related identity theft.

Add comment April 16th, 2015

Mobile Apps Can Put You At Risk Of Identity Theft

If you have an Android or iPhone, then you know how easy it is to fill your smart phone with apps. When there are apps for games, social media, local takeout, banking, and countless other services, the saying “there’s an app for that” has never been more true. Going online to find whatever useful app you need is ridiculously easy, and many people click the “download” button without thinking of the consequences it can have on their privacy.

In the most well-known case last year, Facebook users were slapped with an alarming breach of security when they downloaded the social media’s messenger app. Hidden away in the lengthy terms and conditions that very few people read completely (studies say less than 10% of us read these service agreements), the app asked for permission to track how users interacted with their site. While this is not particularly unusual, acceptance of this request also gave Facebook access to data stored on the phone. Among a whole host of privacy issues, the app had access to all of each user’s personal profile information.

Considering how much you use your phone, this personal information could include your full name, your address, and passwords for several accounts. The app can also read and store information regarding future and past phone calls and your contact lists.

For the discerning smart phone user, you might have thought twice about downloading this particular app. If you think that you’re safe from other security issues, however, think again. Security flaws in operating systems pose a bigger threat. In 2012, security analysts exposed monumental flaws in popular apps such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Dropbox just to name a few. The error made authentication keys that included contact information and passwords available in unencrypted files saved to the device.

For those who know where to look for these files, it can be a simple matter to hijack this information and use your personal identity to fund their spending habits. In order to protect yourself from these issues, you can practice safe mobile behaviour. Watching what wifi you log on to, protecting your device with a complex PIN, and reading terms of service properly are just a few ways to keep you safe.

In a world when many of us update our phones with each new generation released, it’s also a good idea to safely dispose of your old devices when you’re finished with them. Throwing them out in the trash is asking for cyber thieves to find your phone and access confidential contact information. Only when your phone is completely destroyed can you guarantee the information they hold cannot be retrieved.

In a reliable process that ensures every part of your phone is permanently destroyed, our services can give you peace of mind when you upgrade to a new model. The same goes for any other electronic device that you use, as they can have sensitive documents that can be easily accessed by skilled computer technicians. Laptops, external hard drives, and CD-ROMS are just a few sources that should be permanently destroyed.

Using your phone safely by following simple checklists and reading application terms of agreement is your first step towards mobile security. Check out our website to see how you can stop cyber thieves from lifting critical information off of your old phones and devices.

Add comment March 31st, 2015

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