Privacy Tips

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PRIVACY TIPS important if you want to prevent identity theft and ID fraud

The Better Business Bureau offers many privacy tips to help Canadian consumers fight one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes in Canada – identity theft. Take the BBB’s advice to protect your privacy:

You can teach a screen saver new tricks. 
If you’re concerned about others accessing your computer files when you’re not around, but don’t have time to keep turning the computer on and off, you can password protect your PC screen saver so that only you can deactivate it. To do so, go to the Control Panel (click Start, then select Settings, Control Panel) and double-click on Display. Select the Screen Saver tab and check the Password Protect box. 

You can find out a lot by reading privacy policies. 
Many stores now offer club discount cards that provide price discounts on certain items. Some also allow you to build up points similar to frequent flyer programs. In exchange for these and other benefits, you will be asked to share some personal information. So be sure to read the membership agreement fully, or speak to a member of the store’s customer service team if you have questions about their privacy policies. 

It’s too easy to throw away your identity with the trash. 
All it takes is your Social Insurance Number (S.I.N.) for a thief to obtain credit cards, loans and other lines of credit in your name. And it’s not so tough to find. Protect yourself from identity theft by shredding credit card receipts, bills, pre-approved credit card applications and other sensitive documents before throwing them in the garbage. 

You can get more out of your mail by reading it. 
Getting more mail lately? A new law requires financial institutions to clearly communicate their privacy policies to their customers. This means your banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions are sending you their policies on privacy and information sharing. PLEASE READ THEM! Most will allow you to opt-out of their information sharing programs if you so choose. 

You can give identity thieves the slip by holding on to your receipts. 
Many merchants are taking extra precautions to protect their customers from having credit card information stolen from discarded sales receipts. They do this through a process call truncating –replacing the last several digits with asterisks (e.g., 1234 5678 9101 ****). However, not all merchants choose to truncate the number, so when you pay with a credit card, make sure you either keep your sales slip or properly destroy it. 

Identity theft is as close as your mailbox, so pay a visit to the Post Office instead. 
Each payment envelope you send from your mailbox, inbox or outbox is a sitting duck for an identity thief. We often forget how much sensitive information is contained in just one statement stub, whether it is your electricity, water or credit card bill. Don’t let it sit there for the taking. By dropping your mail in a Canada Post collection box, you can dramatically reduce your risk of identity theft. 

You can increase your security by making it a monthly ritual. 
Each month you receive a credit card statement with a list of charges. Each month you should carefully check each statement for charges you didn't make. Call your credit card company immediately to report any suspicious charges. For those who infrequently pay with credit, this may be the first sign that your credit card has been stolen. 

(Editor’s Note: Or sign up with a credit monitoring service that will automatically alert you to any significant changes in your credit situation).

Fido is a good name for a dog, but a bad password for you. 
Hackers know common names people use. Always use a combination of numbers and words you can’t find in the dictionary. It's also a good idea to change your password on a regular basis and avoid storing it near your computer. 

There's a reducing plan -- for your mailbox. 
If you want to receive only certain catalogs, contact the organizations sending you the ones you don't want and ask to be taken off their mailing lists. Alternatively, you can remove your name from most national mailing lists by contacting the Direct Marketing Association at
. If you're not online, you can also call the DMA at 212.790.1488. They will put you in a "delete" file that is sent to subscribing organizations several times a year. 

You can give your Social Insurance Number more security by not writing it on the back of a check.
Don't give it over the phone, either. Where possible, try not to use your SIN as your sole identification number. Make it difficult for thieves to steal it by crossing out the parts that contain your SIN or other identifying information when discarding pay stubs, credit card receipts and other such documents. 

(Editor’s Note: Consider buying a personal shredder to destroy any personal information before it leaves your home. Check out the Shop in Canada section).

Chat rooms are for chatting, not for dating. 
When possible, avoid using your actual name or primary e-mail account and instead use a second alternate online account or screen name as an "alias" when taking part in online discussions. 

To read is to protect yourself. 
Read the privacy policy of all the sites with which you do business, including your Internet service provider and other individual Web sites. You can to learn the type of identifying information, if any, they collect, how they use it, and with whom it is shared. Look for an e-mail address or phone number to contact in case you have questions about security procedures. Any site that asks for information about you should have a privacy policy statement. 

There's no place like home for your sensitive information. 
Increasing numbers of employers are monitoring employees' e-mail and Web usage in the workplace. To ensure the privacy of any sensitive information, keep it at home. And if you must discuss sensitive issues by e-mail, develop the habit of double-checking the header to make sure your message is going only to the intended recipient and not to a wider "reply to all" distribution list. 

Strangers can be strange until you get to know them. 
The age-old adage, "don't talk to strangers," has been updated in this age of online communications to "don't talk to strangers who ask for information they don't need to know." Unless it's with a trusted company or you feel comfortable with why your information is needed, it's almost never a good idea to release your personal information to someone you have never met. Increase your trust level by reading their online privacy policy statement. 

You can keep your information private - even in public. 
Ever use public computers, such as in the library or cafe? Or do you share your computer with others? As you browse, your cache stores Web sites you have visited so that your browser can store them locally instead of going to the Web site. This helps to speed up your browsing on a private computer, but can also allow your habits to be tracked on a public one. To prevent this from happening, go to the "Preferences" folder in your browser and click on "Empty Cache." Also, be sure to close the browser before leaving. 

***** is a good name when shopping on the Internet. 
When giving your credit card information online, be sure to ask whether they use encryption to scramble your data against third-party viewing and how they safeguard your stored data from online hackers. One of the easiest ways to ensure that you have a secure, encrypted connection while doing business online is to check whether the URL (Web address) begins with "https:" rather than simply "http:" before you transmit credit card information. To be certain, you may wish to install encryption software on your own computer to protect your e-mail and files from others who may disregard your personal privacy. 

Just because someone offers you a cookie doesn't mean you have to take it. 
Browser users often have the option to be notified before accepting a cookie and to accept only cookies that connect with the originating server hosting the Web site that placed the cookie - rather than third-party servers for advertisers, for example. Reputable sites should clearly inform you how they plan to use the cookies deposited on your browser. Various types of software and services are available to help you manage cookies, including those that serve as a proxy or shield between you and the sites you visit. You can opt-out from online advertising cookies by visiting the Web site of the Network Advertising Initiative. For more information on other tools, click here. 

You can choose your callers instead of them choosing you. 
If you'd like to be on the "don't call" list, send your name, address and phone number to the Telephone Preference Service, c/o Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014. Major nationwide telemarketers participate in this service. Your local phone company may also offer some "custom calling services" like Caller ID and Call Block which can be used to limit unsolicited calls. 

Records are for remembering more than just memories. 
Most e-commerce sites present you with a summary of your transaction before you click a send or buy button. Print this out or save it as a file to refer to later if necessary. Most credit cards companies give you credit when something goes wrong. If someone steals or uses your credit card number, most credit card companies cover fraudulent charges or limit your liability resulting from unauthorized use of your card. Keep the phone numbers of the credit card companies you deal with in a safe place so you can contact them immediately if something goes wrong.

You can stop the e-mail before it becomes mail. 
Getting mail is fun. But if you'd like to cut down on the amount of unsolicited commercial e-mail, you can contact the e-Mail Preference Service (e-MPS) offered by the Direct Marketing Association. You can register with the service by logging on to All DMA members who wish to send unsolicited commercial e-mail must purge their e-mail prospecting lists of the individuals who have registered their e-mail address with e-MPS. The service is also available to non-DMA members.

© 2002 Council of Better Business Bureau, Inc. 

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Privacy Tips 1
Privacy  Tip
Each month you receive a credit card statement with a list of charges. Each month you should carefully check each statement for charges you didn't make. Call your credit card company immediately to report any suspicious charges. For those who infrequently pay with credit, this may be the first sign that your credit card has been stolen.