Criminals regularly prey on our emotions to scam us. Now there is evidence some are exploiting our fears of the COVID-19 virus and hopes about vaccinations. Kim Parlee talks to Tammy McKinnon, Senior Vice President of Financial Crimes and Fraud Management at TD Bank Group, about how we can protect ourselves and our financial information.
- You may think you're pretty good at spotting frauds and scams. But you probably, for example, would not click an email saying that you've just won a million dollars and know that you're not going to probably see that million dollars. But would you click on an email that talked to you about the time of your COVID-19 vaccination? You might be caught off guard.
Well, March is Fraud Prevention Month. And here to help us keep ourselves safe is Tammy McKinnon. She's Senior Vice President of Financial Crimes and Fraud Management at TD Bank. Tammy, always great to have you with us. Thanks so much.
- Thank you, Kim.
- I can't believe that. I can't believe that they've actually-- people are starting to prey on COVID-19 vaccination information. Are they really-- are fraudsters really moving that fast to prey on these kinds of situations?
- Yes, fraudsters are absolutely capitalizing on the pandemic. Over the course of the last year, many of us have changed our behaviors. We've-- we're spending more time online. And fraudsters are preying on those new forms of behavior.
Because of the lockdown, many people are feeling more socially isolated. And this, in turn, increases their vulnerability, as they may not have a support system in place to discuss potential scams. In fact, according to a TD survey, over 60% of Canadians feel that isolation leads to vulnerability in a fraud situation. Let me give you a couple of examples.
You may get an email saying there's a package arriving. Many of us have had packages coming during COVID. And it says click here to find out more about the delivery time. Or you may get an email claiming to be from the government regarding a COVID vaccination or treatment. And they're trying to get you to click on these links to collect personal information. That's why we all need to exercise a level of skepticism.
When you get an unfamiliar email, don't click on the links. If you get an email and you're just not sure the source, talk to a friend or a loved one. And if you think you're being preyed on by a fraudster or you've fallen victim to fraud, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center. The more we talk about these scams, the harder it's going to be for fraudsters to act.
- Yeah. Healthy skepticism is pretty important right now. And you bring up a good point. I just-- it's so upsetting to me that people are preying on the COVID-19 vaccination time types of things. It's a whole new level.
Now I understand, though, for computers, what I've heard is really the best way to really protect yourself is just to make sure you still have a really tough password. Is that true? Is that still the best defense?
- Yes. Passwords are the best way to protect yourself because you need them to access your various computer accounts, the most important being for your computer or your financial accounts. I want to emphasize, criminals are using sophisticated technology. You need to make it hard for them.
Because of the nature of the way criminals try to access your accounts, passwords have to be difficult to decipher, since criminals have technology to try millions of combinations. So don't use things like your birthday, your dog's name, the word password, or any variations of that word. You really do need the best password, which is multiple characters, a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. That means there are trillions of combinations. That makes it really difficult for a fraudster or a criminal to crack.
Keep those passwords private and secure. Don't share them with anyone. Use unique passwords for your different accounts, and change them often. Also, don't enter passwords on computers that you don't control, like in public Wi-Fi. You're relying on how secure that network is. And it could be infected with malicious software.
Some computers want to save your passwords. You've probably seen those popups that say Save Password. It just makes it easier so you don't have to constantly enter them. Better to choose No or Never when they ask you to save.
Whenever possible, choose two-factor authentication. It provides an extra layer of security by providing you with a one-time pass code to enter when you log into your account. And lastly, we all have many devices connected in our home, things like thermostats, cameras, virtual assistants. Just because you have a robot vacuum, doesn't mean you can use an easy password.
- One of the things that I find that is probably not often talked about is the emotional aspect of fraud. Lots of scams that come at us, and they prey I will say, on emotions of people.
I mean, I remember the first time years ago getting a call from the CRA telling me I was going to get arrested if I didn't respond within a minute. And it-- it really sets you off. And a lot of people are inundated with this kind of thing. Some people are getting a couple of phone calls a day.
- Yes. People get fraudulent calls from the CRA, from the government, from credit card companies, and even from a grandchild in trouble. It's a numbers game for criminals, because they're using technology. If only one in 100,000 is duped, it's still profitable. When a fraudster makes contact by phone, it's called vishing.
And they create a-- it's a scam that creates a sense of urgency, high pressure tactics. They're claiming to be from the government, from the bank. They even threaten to call the police if you don't send money or provide personal information. They will use emotion, and they will bully you into buying into their story.
And the best thing to do there is hang up, contact the institution directly using traditional sources such as the bank number on the back of your card or the institution's website. It's human nature to be helpful and cooperative. That's what fraudsters count on. Again, be skeptical and think before you act.
- I know that you've worked pretty hard in the past little while putting together and helping put together tools that help people ID fraudulent transactions. Maybe just tell us a bit about those.
- Yes. Many financial institutions offer options for their online banking app that will notify you of potential and-- potential fraudulent activity on your accounts. They also have apps that help you track your spending, so you can more easily identify a suspicious or an unusual transaction.
Two-step verification again, added layer of protection security to issue that one-time passcode. And that helps verify that it's you that's accessing your account. And now many credit cards offer card controls, so you can actually lock your card if it's been lost or misplaced.
- What do you do if you think you've been the victim of fraud? I mean, what are the steps you should take?
- As I mentioned before, the best thing you can do is to report it. Call the police, call the bank, notify the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center. There is an element here of embarrassment for people. I hear it all the time. But if no one reports the crimes, it's very hard to shut them down.
- Tammy, thanks so much for joining us.
- Thank you, Kim.