Identity theft alert: How 77,0000 Canadians lost $99 million last year in extortion, phishing and romance scams


Experts advise leaving your Social Insurance Number card and birth certificate in a safe place at home, since thieves can do a lot of damage with your name, birth date and SIN

Randy Chester was visiting one of his usual second-hand haunts this summer, a Value Village in Toronto’s east end, when he spied a beautiful shirt and vest for $20. Excited about his new finds, he tapped his debit card, only to be shocked by the resulting message: Insufficient funds.

“I was upset because I knew I had money,” he recalls. He tried the card again at a variety store, a restaurant and then at an ATM belonging to his bank, CIBC, and got the same message. When he called the bank to see what was going on, they asked him if he had been shopping at Yorkdale Mall in the city’s north end. There was a $1,500 purchase debited from his account, but Chester, a cancer patient on disability who uses a walker, had been at a medical appointment at the Princess Margaret Cancer Hospital that day.

“It’s like, hello!” he jokes. “Value Village, yes. Yorkdale Mall, no. I couldn’t get there with my walker.”

Then he remembered that a young man had called him on his flip-phone a few days before, claiming to be from CIBC and saying there was a problem with his debit card. Chester knew better than to talk to anyone about his banking information and hung up. The next day, he got a text message, purportedly from CIBC, that had the last four digits of his debit card number in it, and asked him to text back “Y” for yes if it was his account. He assumed because they had his number already, it was legitimate. He hit Y and send.

“The bank told me they would never send a text message,” says Chester, 61. “I didn’t know that.”

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