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7 tips to protect yourself from scams and fraud

Scams that try to swindle people out of their money aren't new—as soon as people developed the concept of personal property, other people found ways to steal it.

But in a world ripe with social media networks, information sharing and digital data storage, fraud is on the rise. So what can you do to protect yourself? Here are seven tips for keeping your money and identity safe:

1. Pay attention to the source that's contacting you.

A suspicious email address, website, or out-of-province area code are signs you should be suspicious. For example, all ATB team members have email addresses with the @atb.com domain. If you get an email from another domain, such as @atbfinancial.com or @atbonline.com, something's wrong.

ATB Financial (or an ATB team member) will never ask you to provide personal or account information through an unsolicited email or text.

Learn more about communicating safely with ATB

When it comes to mail, review the document for errors or inconsistencies, comparing it to other legitimate material you've received from that company. Messages should be personally addressed, and the look and feel should be consistent with other marketing materials. At ATB, we refer to ourselves as ATB Financial. If you receive something from Alberta Treasury Branches, that's a red flag. We no longer use that name.

2. Question the information they're asking for

A legitimate request—especially one from a financial institution—will not ask for your account number, PIN, credit card number, or personal information (like your SIN). If they need this information, they should have it already. There should never be a sense of urgency, but if it is an urgent new requirement, you should insist to provide it in person at the normal place you conduct business with them, like your local branch or agency.

3. Question why they're contacting you in the first place

If you don't normally receive phone calls, emails, letters, or texts from a specific business, you should question why you're receiving one now. If this contact is legitimate, you shouldn't feel any pressure to click a link, reply to an email, send money or share your information.

Do not give out any personal information on the phone, through mail, or over the internet unless you have initiated the contact or personally know who you are dealing with.

4. Don't react to alarmist messages

Ironically, any message that contains "WARNING! Your information has been compromised!" is likely warning you that it will compromise your information. As a general rule, anything that is asking for immediate action—"Enter to win", "Reactivate your account" or "Apply now" —should be handled cautiously.

5. Hover over any links before you click on them

If you receive an email or text that asks you to click on a web address, one of the quickest ways you can check if it's legitimate is to hover over the link itself. Although it may look trustworthy, the address that pops up (or appears below) may not match what you think you're clicking through to.

For example:
On a desktop computer, hover over this ATB.com link. Now hover over this ATB.com link. You'll notice that second link doesn't actually go where you think it should.

6. Change your PIN and passwords regularly

We know—it's hard to keep track of your PINs and passwords, but the more you change them, the safer they'll be. ATB recommends you change your passwords every 30 days.

If you have a hard time remembering your passwords, a simple trick is to change one or two aspects of your password, like a number or capitalized letter, according to a pattern you will remember.

For example:
You could play off the word "apple" and use applE9 > appLe8 > apPle7 > aPple6 (numbers count down, while capitalized letter moves across)

Never share PINs, passwords, answers to security questions, credit card numbers or personal information.

7. Ensure a site is secure before you make a purchase

If you're going to buy something online, buy it from a merchant you know and trust. Also, before entering your credit card information, check to make sure you're in a secure zone. You should see https:// in the website address. If you receive an email, phone call, letter, or text that raises any suspicion, do not respond. Instead, independently track down the company's phone number (on their official website, for example) and confirm with them that the contact is legitimate.

If the suspicious message claims to come from ATB, call us immediately at 1-800-332-8383 or forward us the email (as an attachment) to fraud@atb.com. These tips and tactics will help you keep your information and money safe year-round.

ATB Financial

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