Senior Scene October 31, 2016

November is National Community Safety and Crime Prevention Month, and this year the Canada Safety Council and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada wants to remind you to stay alert and on your guard when it comes to identity theft and online scams. Their tagline for 2016 is “Keeping privacy golden in your senior years”.

As a senior you have spent a lifetime building your good name and reputation and the last thing you need is for your hard-earned retirement to be derailed because somebody has turned that good name to mud. Identity theft is an unfortunate fact of life in the 21st century; one exacerbated by the myriad of new ways data may be compromised.

Seniors represent one of Canada’s most susceptible segments of society. Do your homework and take stock of your privacy vulnerabilities. Start with your wallet. Take an inventory of the personal information and cards that you carry. Leave items you do not need somewhere secure.

If asked for personal details to participate in a promotion, to return an item to a store or by a charity you have made a donation to, be sure to ask questions about the organization’s privacy policies and how your information will be protected. Do not let businesses make a copy of your ID unless it’s for a legitimate reason.

Do not be shy about saying “No thanks,” to that smiling clerk if you are not comfortable sharing your phone number, postal code or email address.

Ensure safeguards are in place. When it comes to the security of your personal information, there are a number of other precautions to consider, both in the real world and online.

  • Keep track of credit card and other bills and do not hesitate to call the company if they do not arrive on schedule.
  • Check your credit card and bank statements carefully for unauthorized purchases and shred or burn documents that contain personal or financial information once they are no longer needed.
  • Do not give credit card numbers or personal information over the phone unless it is to someone you trust or information you provide during the course of a call you initiated.
  • Enable the automatic lock and password protection features of mobile devices and do not leave them out in the open, such as on the passenger seat of your car.
  • Make sure your anti-virus, anti-spam and firewall programs are updated regularly.
  • Change your passwords periodically and have a different one for each of your activities. For instance, do not use the same password you use for online banking when you log into your favourite social networking site. Make sure your passwords are hard to guess and not something obvious like; “12345” or “password.”
  • Being on a social networking site often brings out our chatty side as we are eager to tell people what is going on in our lives. However, it is wise to limit the amount of personal information you put online, and limit your “friends” to people you actually know.
  • Be wary of suspicious attachments that may contain viruses and of individuals you do not know or even banks, government institutions or other organizations that ask you to provide personal information via text or email. Legitimate institutions generally do not operate in this fashion.
  • Avoid activities such as online banking while connected to free Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or public library. Data is vulnerable in public spaces with open wireless networks.