March is fraud prevention month, which prompted local RCMP to encourage Kings County residents to take steps to protect themselves by knowing how to recognize fraud and by safeguarding their personal information.
As a recent victim of fraud, I can testify to the heart-stopping horror when you see your balance isn't what it should be. In my case, I apparently used my bankcard somewhere unsafe, where some unscrupulous person copied my card number and decided it was OK to use my account to send money via Western Union and book hotel rooms in Aruba.
Luckily, I noticed the missing money almost immediately and my bank was great to work with. They escalated an investigation and had my funds returned to me almost immediately. In the end, it only cost me time, a new card and a lot of peace of mind. However, I doubt I’ll ever be able to use my card again without wondering whether it’s truly safe.
The experience brought home the point the RCMP are making about protecting yourself from fraud. I was lucky. Many people are not as fortunate and it can have severe financial consequences – usually for people who really can't afford to lose the cash.
Think of the "grandparent" scam, for example. In this case, an older person is targeted and receives a phone call, allegedly from a grandchild who is travelling overseas and is in desperate need of financial help.
To anyone not in the situation, it's easy enough to wonder how the victim fell for the scam. Logically, you would confirm whether your family member was actually in trouble before opening your wallet and releasing large amounts of money. But that's where the human heart gets in the way. How many of us wouldn't help a family member in need? In the worry, concern, confusion and eagerness to help a loved one, it's easy to understand how the brain takes a back seat to the heart. Unfortunately, it has left people scammed out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.
That's why it's so essential to always be thinking about protecting your identity. Even the tiniest, most insignificant detail can help these sophisticated criminals paint a picture of your financial identity – and that can lead to tragic consequences.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with fraud – check out the RCMP website for information on the most common scams and other fraud prevention tips – and be diligent about ensuring your bank balance, credit card balance and credit statements are all what they should be. Be proactive about your financial safety.