(Find the full article here from Tangerine Bank - https://forwardthinking.tangerine.ca/en/#!/post/tips-to-help-protect-yourself-from-fraud)

In the comedy The Identity Thief, Melissa McCarthy plays a shopaholic who funds her mall sprees with the stolen identity of someone named “Sandy.” Turns out that Sandy is actually a man. To save his business and his reputation, he travels across the country to track her down. Laughs ensue.
But ask anyone who’s been the victim of fraud—debit, credit, cheque, mortgage, romance, or identity—and they’ll tell you, it’s no comedy.

While researching her book Protecting You and Your Money: A Guide to Avoiding Identity Theft and Fraud, personal finance expert Kelley Keehn spoke to experts and developed tips to help people avoid becoming victims of fraud.

Of the many types of fraud out there, Keehn says mortgage fraud, while rare, is a “doozy.” Mortgage fraud occurs when your personal information is used to take out a loan against your property. “Seniors are the most likely victims,” says Keehn. She suggests always working with reputable accountants, mortgage brokers and lawyers, and for extra security, buying title insurance. “It’s a one-time cost from $300 to $500,” Keehn says.

Debit or credit card fraud is more common than mortgage fraud. Your financial information falls into the wrong hands, either by fraudsters sifting through your mail, persuading you to give bank information over the phone or online, or by “skimming” your card. Skimming occurs when a point-of-sale terminal or ABM is tampered with and your confidential banking information, such as your PIN, is obtained. “If a machine looks funny to you, don’t use it,” says Keehn.

To know immediately whether your credit or bank cards are being used, set up an automatic alert, suggests Keehn. “This way if your phone ‘pings’ and you haven’t bought anything, you know someone else is using it.”

Although many transactions occur online, cheque fraud is alive and well. For example, there’s the overpayment scheme: You sell something online for $500 and the buyer sends you a fake cheque for $1,000. “When you point out the overpayment, they tell you, ‘OK, just wire me the difference,'” says Keehn. Only one of these cheques is legitimate… Yours.

“Romance fraud has been around for hundreds of years, but the Internet has really opened it up exponentially,” says Keehn. “You feel secure in your home or office but do you really know who’s on the other side of that screen?”

She suggests watching for red flags from potential romantic partners you meet online, like temporary loan requests because of a delayed contract, or plane fare to visit you. “These types of fraud are vastly unreported because of the shame and embarrassment people feel,” Keehn says.

Undoing the damage of fraud can take more time than you think. “It takes a minimum of 4 weeks, 8 hours per day, 7 days per week, for you to clear your name,” says Keehn. Fraudsters steal your Social Insurance Number, citizenship or birth information and use it to create passports and other high-value documents. “In some cases people are working illegally or committing crimes under your name,” she says.

When it comes to protecting yourself from fraud, Keehn’s advice is to be proactive. “You wouldn’t park your car in a bad part of town and leave it unlocked, but leaving your personal information accessible is the same or worse.”

For more tips on how to protect yourself from fraud, check out the Competition Bureau of Canada website.