Have you ever heard of someone who, in order to get back at someone, used their ex’s account (email, Facebook, Twitter) to say bad things about someone else?

Maybe you have received an email supposedly from a bank telling you that your bank account will be closed in the following 24 hours if you do not provide the information requested in the message. What did you do? Did you know that this type of email is called phishing?

Identity theft is when someone else takes ownership or uses, without you knowing, your personal information (e.g. name, first name, pseudonym, email address, photos, passwords, etc.) in order to pretend that they are you.

Identity theft is often used to spread hatred, to intimidate, to blackmail, to steal assignments or money, or to commit fraud. It can be done using any type of internet platform (Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail, Instagram, etc.). As well, identity theft can be carried out through hacking or phishing.

  • Your neighbour creates a Facebook page using the name of the local member of the National Assembly and announces funding for a new arena.
  • You are browsing on the internet and discover that someone has created a Facebook account and is using pictures of you under a false identity.
  • During team work, you give a colleague your college network password. A few weeks later, this colleague connects using your coordinates and sends insults to your teachers.
  • One of your friends forgot to disconnect from an online session before leaving the lab. Another student from the group steals his or her homework.
  • A friend of yours writes an online exam for you because you are not ready to write it.
  • A teacher from your college uses a very simple password, such as abc1234, and a student noticed it when seeing the teacher sign in to his or her computer. The student is able to connect to the teacher’s account and steals all of the exams.
  • You receive an email from what seems to be Apple informing you that someone has illegally connected to your iTunes account. To correct this situation, you are asked to click on a link to change your password. You are also asked to give your credit card number for your future purchases. You provide the information. A few weeks later, you realize that your credit card has been used to purchase a new home theater system.
  • You download a game or a free app on your laptop. Without knowing it, you installed spyware that can record all of your usernames and passwords… Scammers now have access to your income tax returns, your social insurance number, your birthdate, etc.

It is almost impossible to prevent theft identity when someone uses your public data, such as your name. Therefore, you have no control when someone else creates a Facebook page using your name. However, we think that it is possible to take action if such a situation arises.

Furthermore, it is possible to prevent the use of your personal data for identity theft:

  • Password: choose passwords containing eight characters or more that have numbers, capital and lower-case letters, as well as special characters. We strongly encourage you to never use the same password for more than one account.
  • Lock: whether you are using a computer, a phone, a tablet of a USB key, always lock them when not in use. It is a simple trick that prevents a lot of trouble. In order to lock, you must give each device a password.
  • Cache: whether you are in an internet café, at the college or even at home, regularly empty the memory cache on your computer or cell phone. Some browsers offer the option to “empty cache when turning off”.
  • Publishing: limit as much as possible the publication of your personal data (birthdate, personal photos, pseudonym, phone number, etc.)
  • Antivirus and firewall: make sure that all of your devices have an updated antivirus program installed.
  • Software updates: program your computer so that all updates are done automatically. You will then avoid breaches of security.
  •  Managing access rights: limit as much as possible access to your social network accounts (Facebook, Instagram or other) to your close circle of friends. This way, you will limit the number of people who may have access to your personal and confidential information (birth date, college, etc.).

Phishing

The Sûreté du Québec offers suggestions to avoid being a victim of phishing. They are:

  • Make sure that all sites where you give personal information begin with “https” (secured sites). A lock should be seen on the left of the URL.
  • Avoid clicking on links inserted in emails.
  • Never give out personal or financial information by email.
  • Be wary of emails asking for personal information online. Financial institutions never ask for such information by email. If you have any doubts, contact your financial institution before answering.
  • Check for grammatical errors: phishing emails are often full of errors.
  • Make sure that the address of the site is the one you normally use (for example: https://www.desjardins.com compared to http://www.desjardins1.com).
  • Verify your bank statements regularly.
  • File a complaint with the Sûreté du Québec or with your municipal police force.

If you suspect that someone has illegally accessed one of your online accounts, change your password immediately. If you use the same password for other accounts, make sure to create new passwords for them as well.

If you suspect that one of your devices (computer, tablet, telephone) is infected by a virus, update your antivirus software and start a complete scan.

If you are a victim or you think that you may have been a victim of identity theft, either by phishing or by any other method, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recommends that you:

  • Contact the police
  • Inform the company targeted by the phishing or linked to the divulging of the personal information.
  • Contact the credit agencies and ask that a fraud notification be added to your file:
  • Equifax Canada (toll-free number: 1-800-465-7166)
  • TransUnion Canada (toll-free number: 1-877-525-3823)
  • Report the theft to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre:

In all cases, do not hesitate do contact your college’s Student Services department to get help or advice. They are trained to help you.