Rise in data breaches prompts warning

As privacy awareness week gets underway, the BC Office for the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Better Business Bureau are warning people do a better job protecting their personal data

Digital tools have made online buying and selling the status quo for 90% of Canadians, both adding convenience to millions of people’s lives and offering would be thieves the chance prey on the most vulnerable. 

This week is Privacy Awareness Week, and the BC Office for the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) together with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are warning shoppers, businesses and government to do a better job of protecting personal information.

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In the BBB’s 2018 scam tracker risk report, the organization found online shoppers most at risk were those between 35 and 44. Total losses last year due to online shopping scams reached $3.5 million across the country. 

That puts shopping scams into the third riskiest kind of swindle after romance scams and income tax extortions. 

Data breaches aren’t just the result of poor choices by consumers; many businesses don’t do a good enough job in safeguarding their clients’ information.

From 2015 to 2018, data breach reports for businesses increased by nearly 60%, according to the OIPC and BBB, putting both customers and employee information at risk.

“Anyone who uses the internet is likely to generate a virtual footprint which, if not carefully protected, could form a trail of breadcrumbs for scammers,” said BBB spokesperson Karla Davis in a press release.

“People get caught in the excitement to capitalize on a sale, grab that risk free trial or purchase the last item before it goes out of stock and end up jeopardizing their privacy.”

To help reduce the risk of divulging private data, the OIPC and BBB are recommending online shoppers do the following: 

1) Confirm location

Ask the company for its address and phone number so you decide how trustworthy it is through its BBB Business Profile.

2) Check the privacy policy

Businesses have the responsibility to display their online privacy policy spelling out how they will share your data. If it’s not easily accessible, stay clear of the company. 

3) Tailor your online presence

Customize your privacy and security settings to limit how you share information and with whom you do it.

4) Protect your passwords

Avoid using anything that can easily be traced back to you, including your phone number, address, birthday, or social insurance number. The longer a password is, the better. But it’s also a good idea to include a minimum of eight characters (12 for email and financial accounts), combining upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Once you’ve got a solid password, don’t repeat it on other sites.

5) Avoid unfamiliar links

One click can infect your whole computer and offer a opening to all of your personal information.

6) Beware of ‘act now’ offers

Many scammers pressure their victims with frantic claims of limited availability.

7) Guard against pay by post

If a seller asks you to submit cash, a cheque or money order through an overnight delivery service, there’s a good chance they are not a legitimate business. Stay clear. 

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