Re­al­ity check: Mon­i­tor your fi­nances to pro­tect against iden­tity theft

Vancouver Sun - - WORLD - PETER KENTER

Pro­tect your pass­words. Shield the PIN pad while us­ing an ABM. All great ad­vice. But in a world where per­sonal fi­nances are hurtling al­most ex­clu­sively toward the dig­i­tal realm, how can you pro­tect your­self from iden­tity theft with any de­gree of cer­tainty?

“The truth is that an in­di­vid­ual can’t re­ally pre­vent iden­tity theft,” says David Feller, founder and CEO of Mogo Fi­nance Tech­nol­ogy Inc. “Bit­coin is just an­other ex­am­ple of how the world is go­ing dig­i­tal, and while we en­joy the ben­e­fits of ser­vices like Uber, Ama­zon, Net­flix, and Airbnb, we are also ex­pos­ing our­selves to greater risk for iden­tity theft and iden­tity fraud, as more and more of our data is stored and trans­mit­ted by third par­ties.”

The Cana­dian Anti-Fraud Cen­tre logged more than 20,000 vic­tims of iden­tity theft in 2014 alone. Vic­tims that year re­ported more than $10 mil­lion in losses. That may just be the tip of the ice­berg. The cen­tre es­ti­mates that only five per cent of all frauds are re­ported.

Sto­ries about iden­tity fraud vic­tims make news daily. Even if banks and their in­sur­ers make good on stolen money, the lives of fraud vic­tims can be de­railed. They can be held up in years of le­gal wran­gles and dam­aged credit rat­ings and are of­ten forced to put their life plans on hold as mort­gage ap­pli­ca­tions and other loans are de­nied.

Even Cana­di­ans who try to avoid a dig­i­tal bank­ing foot­print are at risk, as crim­i­nals reg­is­ter fraud­u­lent loans and mort­gages against their homes and other as­sets.

“Even if you only have a bank ac­count, your per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is al­ready out there in credit bu­reaus,” says Feller. “In all like­li­hood, some of your per­sonal data has al­ready been hacked. Al­though we can all do things to min­i­mize the risk of iden­tity theft, the re­al­ity is there’s al­most noth­ing we can do to re­ally pre­vent it as we en­gage in this dig­i­tal world. One of the best things we can do to min­i­mize the risk of be­com­ing a vic­tim of iden­tity fraud is to ac­tively mon­i­tor our credit bureau for new credit in­quiries.”

Mogo’s so­lu­tion is Mo­goPro­tect, a new dig­i­tal ser­vice de­signed to help con­sumers pro­tect them­selves against iden­tify fraud. It’s avail­able to Mogo mem­bers at $8.99 per month, roughly half the price of com­pa­ra­ble mon­i­tor­ing ser­vices.

“We pushed Mo­goPro­tect up the line as the fifth prod­uct on our Mogo app, be­cause we be­lieve that iden­tity fraud is one of the great­est risks to the fi­nan­cial health of con­sumers,” says Feller. “Our re­search in­di­cated a ma­jor gap in an af­ford­able mobile-first so­lu­tion, and we de­vel­oped Mogo-Pro­tect to bridge this gap.”

Mo­goPro­tect mon­i­tors the Equifax credit bureau on an on­go­ing ba­sis and no­ti­fies mem­bers en­rolled in the ser­vice by push no­ti­fi­ca­tion and email when a com­pany makes a new credit in­quiry. That could be triggered by any­thing from con­sent to a credit check while open­ing a new bank ac­count to com­plet­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion for credit.

“If it’s an in­quiry you ex­pected, there’s no harm done,” says Feller. “If it’s an in­quiry you didn’t ex­pect, Mo­goPro­tect will guide you through the next steps to help pre­vent you from be­com­ing a vic­tim. An alert from a mobile app is key as you’re far more likely to no­tice and take ac­tion.”

In cases of fraud, time is crit­i­cal. Fraud­sters of­ten cast a wide net, leav­ing a his­tory of fail­ures be­fore strik­ing gold. How­ever, the fail­ures can gen­er­ate a trail of credit in­quires that al­low in­di­vid­u­als to set up road blocks be­fore it’s too late.

Feller re­counts the re­cent news story in­volv­ing a Toronto woman whose iden­tity was stolen. Thieves reg­is­tered two mort­gages to­talling $500,000 against her home, each with a dif­fer­ent lender.

“She in­ves­ti­gated her own case and found out that the thieves had tried at a num­ber of fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions,” he says. “Ten said ‘no’; two said ‘yes.’ A so­lu­tion like Mo­goPro­tect would have alerted the homeowner within 24 hours of each of those lenders hav­ing re­ported an in­quiry to Equifax. Given the time it takes to close some­thing like a mort­gage, she most likely could have pre­vented this from hap­pen­ing — not to men­tion avoid­ing the time and has­sle it can take to re­solve some­thing like this if it does hap­pen.”

Ride-shar­ing ser­vice Uber re­cently ad­mit­ted the com­pany tried to hide a ma­jor se­cu­rity breach that ex­posed data on 57 mil­lion users. The news un­der­scores the risks Cana­di­ans face as they en­joy the ben­e­fits of the dig­i­tal world, and also the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing their fi­nan­cial health against iden­tity fraud.

“We be­lieve that in this new dig­i­tal world ev­ery Cana­dian needs a so­lu­tion to help pro­tect them­selves against iden­tity fraud,” says Feller.

“The risks seem to in­crease with ev­ery new hack and the im­pact to con­sumers can be sig­nif­i­cant, in many cases de­rail­ing im­por­tant fi­nan­cial goals like buy­ing a home, un­til the fraud is re­solved. We be­lieve Mo­goPro­tect is a great so­lu­tion, but it’s sim­ply im­por­tant that they do some­thing to pro­tect them­selves.”


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