If you're like many Canadians these days, you might be working from home and spending much more time online. Maybe you're connected to a number of different devices to get work done, shop, bank, socialize, or check out online content.
Since the pandemic hit, we've become more dependent on the internet. A study commissioned by TELUS Online Security found that 77% of Canadians are online more now than they were pre-pandemic.
As our lives have increasingly gone digital, taking steps to proactively protect your personal and financial information has become more important than ever before.
The truth is, our heavy reliance on connectivity and the internet makes us more vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. In fact, a report from Statistics Canada indicated that 42% of Canadians have experienced at least one type of cybersecurity incident since the beginning of the pandemic.
Even with the increased risk, new findings from TELUS Online Security show that only 18% of Canadians are protecting themselves against identity theft and just 48% have malware protection on their devices.
By not taking the appropriate security measures and steps to protect yourself online, you could face a situation where your information is compromised and your identity is at risk of being stolen.
It can be a difficult lesson to learn, as shown in the stories below. These Canadians shared their real-life experiences with identity theft and information breaches, and how these cybersecurity issues substantially impacted their lives.
Responses have been edited for clarity.
In The Nick Of Time
In June, Joelle Farrow woke up to a confirmation email stating her password was being changed and to click to proceed. Though it seemed odd, at first she didn’t think much of it because she’d seen and ignored spam emails like this before and nothing had come of them. Before she knew it, her digital life was under attack. On her phone, Joelle could see her apps but couldn't use WiFi or make phone calls, and she couldn’t text or iMessage. She went to her computer and saw emails from many of her apps and accounts, stating that her passwords had been changed. She panicked.
Shortly thereafter, Joelle got a notice from her bank about fraud and the need to secure her account. Using her boyfriend's phone, she called various companies and organizations that had her personal and financial information, but it was hard to get through with the long wait times due to COVID and she ended up spending a ton of time on the phone trying to resolve this very sensitive issue.
The stress was really getting to Joelle and she was scared for her livelihood. Not only was she worried about a breach to the confidential work information in her emails and phone, she was also worried about someone gaining access to her social media accounts, which she uses for branded partnerships and campaigns. “Our phone truly is our lifeline,” Joelle told Narcity, just like a (self-identified) true millennial. The thought that someone could permanently delete everything terrified her.
In the end, Joelle was lucky, the only fraudulent charge was for $100 for food delivery in another city. For Joelle, it took weeks for everything, like her credit card, to be replaced; and for her various online accounts to be reinstated. She felt extremely lucky to have been awake when the fraud was happening so she could act quickly and engage her service providers to help her reach a resolution. Joelle is acutely aware that the situation could have become much worse.
Still, this was a total invasion of privacy for Joelle and, to this day, she doesn’t know what the fraudster(s) saw or might still have.
An Expensive Flight That She Never Took
Two years ago, Micky Bhatia was looking at her credit card statement and saw two line items that read, "cheap-o-air", with $0 charged for both. She found this odd but, since there was no charge, she didn't think too much of it.
Even so, Micky began to review airline sites she'd used previously to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. The following day she checked her credit card statement again, and sure enough, a charge for $2,800 suddenly appeared.
Micky investigated with the credit card company. It took some time for them to confirm everything and receive a response from the airline website before being able to reverse the charge.
Thankfully, Micky was diligent in tracking her spending and reviewing her credit card statements. Even when all seems normal, this is a great habit to get into.
Actually Reviewing Your Credit Card Statements Is Key
International student Jayati Paul attempted to complete a transaction with her credit card at a local shipping centre, but her payment didn’t go through. Since she knew she'd paid off the card in full, she found this strange, but figured that maybe it was just a simple technical issue.
Later on, Jayati checked her account only to find multiple transactions ranging from $200 to $600. She called her bank to discuss the situation and put a block on all of her cards as a proactive security measure.
She then had to go through the process of applying for new cards, which took two weeks to arrive. For over a month, her bank investigated the case and then refunded the money after multiple calls and explanations.
Despite having caught the issue and acting immediately, the whole situation was a living nightmare for Jayati, especially having come from abroad as an international student.
As these stories show, it’s crucial to be vigilant and proactive about protecting yourself from online threats so that your personal and financial information are safe.
To help Canadians keep their personal information protected so they can shop, browse, and bank online with peace of mind, TELUS collaborated with NortonLifeLock to create TELUS Online Security, which provides a comprehensive, all-in-one solution to help protect your devices, online privacy, personal information, and more.
TELUS Online Security has different levels of protection so there is a fit for everyone, with features including a Password Manager, a Virtual Private Network that encrypts data, Device Security, Credit Monitoring1, Identity Theft Protection, Dark Web Monitoring, and Identity Restoration in the event of identity theft. Should you become a victim of identity theft, the Identity Theft Reimbursement Coverage ††† is there to help.
TELUS Online Security is easy to use and offers the resources and support needed to protect yourself from today’s threats. Comprehensive plans range from $10 to $30 per month. So if you’re spending time online – no excuses! Make sure you protect your personal information and stay safe out there.