Be the first line of defense: top tips to prevent financial fraud


By Brent Reynolds, Capital One

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

As social media becomes ever prevalent in our lives, we have become increasingly accustomed to sharing personal details with friends, family and coworkers. While there’s certainly no harm in sharing vacation details or family photos with your network, this culture of sharing can lead to troubling consequences when it extends to personal financial information.

In the spirit of Fraud Prevention Month – an educational campaign each March that encourages Canadians to recognize and reject fraud – I’d like to offer a few tips to help empower Canadians to be their own first line of defense.

Protect your personal details

Our recent fraud prevention study found 47% of Canadians have shared their credit card number over the phone, via email or through the mail. One in five Canadians (22%) also admit to sharing their banking information via email, where the risk of phishing is high.

When it comes to sharing your personal information, always be cautious. Whether it’s over the phone, in person, through the mail or on the Internet, always know who you are sharing your personal or financial information with and why. If a call or email seems questionable, end the communication and visit the company’s secure website to contact them directly.

Select a strong PIN and protect it

While it may seem harmless to share your PIN with family members (in fact, 40% of Canadians admit to doing it), a PIN should never be shared with anyone. Select a secure and difficult-to-guess PIN that isn’t based on personal information like a birthday, address, SIN number or telephone number. Make sure you choose a unique PIN for each card. And, when accessing an ATM or paying with your card, be aware of who is around you and cover the keypad when you enter your PIN. Finally, if you’re going to store your PIN somewhere, make sure you choose a secure location and never write it on or store it near your card.

Take advantage of any features your card issuer offers

Many credit-card companies offer features like real-time alerts and push notifications that can help you identify suspicious purchase activity early on. For example, our customers receive email notifications or text alerts if potentially suspicious activity occurs on their account. These alerts will prompt customers to provide a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to let us know if a transaction is valid or not. This way, the transaction can be declined or approved in real time.

We also offer a feature called Second Look, which protects cardholders by flagging potentially suspect transactions like a double charge or increases in subscription fees that could be easy to miss. Regardless of the feature, do your research to understand what tools are available to you and take advantage of them.

Get a copy of your credit report

Our study found only 13% of Canadians review their credit report each year. By reviewing your credit report, you will gain a line of sight into all of the credit accounts you have open which means you can deal with potential fraud by identifying any errors and working with the credit bureaus to correct them. Canadians are entitled to a free copy of their credit report by mail from Equifax or TransUnion, and contrary to popular belief, this sort of check will not impact your credit score.

Watch out for phishing emails

The rise of chip technology on credit and debit cards has drastically reduced instances of fraud at point of sale, which means fraudsters have turned their attention online to ‘phish’ for information. In fact, in the last year alone, 40% of Canadians suspect that they have been a target of phishing – an attempt to trick them into giving out personal information like account numbers and passwords.

To avoid falling victim to phishing schemes, be wary of offers that seem too good to be true and keep your eyes open for grammatical or spelling errors in communications, or emails that demand an urgent response. A good rule of thumb is to hover over any embedded links before selecting them to confirm the website is legitimate. When in doubt, contact the company that the communication claims to originate from directly to verify and report the email.

To learn more about fraud prevention and how you can prevent it, visit

Brent Reynolds has always been passionate about data and analytics –  particularly, as it relates to better understanding and serving the customer base at Capital One Canada. For the last eight years, he has helped lead the company’s digital transformation which has included the development of the company’s innovation lab in Kitchener-Waterloo. He is currently the Managing Vice President and Head of Branded Cards, Decision Sciences and Digital.


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