The Globe and Mail has learned that many Canadians are at risk of being targeted for a cyberattack that could steal information about their financial lives and even their identities.
In the past, home-grown cyberattacks have targeted banks and financial institutions, but they’ve been far more common in recent years.
“The average consumer’s credit score is the most closely linked to their financial standing and identity,” said Josh Black, chief economist at Experian.
“It’s a lot easier to put someone at risk by using an identity theft tool that is not very widely available.”
The Globe found that the majority of people affected by a cyber attack are older adults, and the average credit score falls between 65 and 75 points.
In other words, the most vulnerable people tend to be the oldest, according to the Globe.
The Globe also found that nearly half of Canadians with less than $25,000 in debt are at higher risk of having their credit score stolen.
Some may be able to avoid this, but not all.
A couple of measures can help protect your financial security.
A home-built credit-scoring kit can help.
Some banks offer their customers a home credit score and help them access their accounts.
For more information, visit www.consumeraffairs.gc.ca.
And many credit-reporting agencies provide free credit-monitoring software to help protect consumers.
“If you have a credit card or other card you use to make purchases or make payments, you can go to the credit bureau and get a free credit score,” said Adam Todhunter, a financial adviser with TodHunter Financial Services.
“You can also go to your credit-card company and get an email alert to notify you when your credit score drops below a certain level.”
It is important to note that most credit-score agencies do not offer free credit monitoring software to consumers.
But some have suggested that they offer it if they know consumers might be at higher risks of identity theft.
For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it offers free alerts to consumers when their credit scores are lower than three.
The government-sponsored credit-assessment program also offers free credit alerts to anyone who is at risk.
If you are concerned, contact your credit bureau to see if they offer any free credit warnings.
“There is a huge risk to all Canadians that they may be targeted by identity theft, and we want to make sure that we can protect them,” said Mark Jaccard, the director of consumer-protection at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a non-profit group.
“That’s why it’s so important to have a reliable credit report.”