7 Strategies to Avoid Identity Theft

7 Strategies to Avoid Identity Theft

Identity theft and credit card fraud cost Canadians more than $1 million a day according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

That staggering statistic doesn’t mean you have to sit around and wait to be targeted. By taking identity fraud seriously and following the RCMP’s recommended strategies for protecting your personal information, you reduce your chances of becoming a victim of this costly crime.


Identity fraud occurs when someone obtains another individual’s personal data or financial information and uses it fraudulently to obtain goods or services. This once-obscure crime is now a widespread problem for Canadians.


1. Always keep your credit card in sight. If your waiter or salesperson needs to walk away to run your card, go with them to make sure you are not a victim of credit card skimming. This common practice of identity thieves lifts information from the magnetic strip on the back of your credit card to use later to make purchases at your expense.

2. Never trust emails that ask for your personal or financial information – no matter how official they appear. Phishing is a frequent tactic used by identity thieves. They pretend to be your bank and prompt you to click a link to a fraudulent website and enter your information in a bogus online form. Phishing scams typically use a logo, design and URL that look close to your bank’s branding, but once you enter your information it goes directly to the thieves.

3. Protect your computer from malware. Hackers are constantly creating malicious software to infiltrate your computer and intercept passwords or credit card information you enter while online. Protect your computer by installing the latest anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-adware programs and firewalls. Without this protection, you can unknowingly infect your computer with a virus by opening the wrong email, accessing the wrong website or downloading an infected game. Also, make it a practice to only purchase from trusted online retailers who have a secure “https” site instead of an “http”.

4. Shred trash and junk mail with personal information printed on it. Identity thieves are not above going through your garbage to get access to personal information, including that of your friends and family. An identity thief could use a discarded phone book to steal the name, address and birthday information for those close to you.

5. Streamline your wallet. Only carry items you plan to use. Keep your passport, birth certificate, social insurance card and other credit cards safely stored when you are not using them.

6. Protect your PIN. Do not share your PIN with anyone and take care to shield the keypad whenever you enter it in public. Identity thieves use clever tactics to steal PINs including spy cameras.

7. Monitor your credit regularly. At least once every six months, check your credit through Equifax Canada or TransUnion Canada to make sure there is no suspicious activity. Also, carefully review your bank and credit card statements and report suspicious charges immediately.

For additional steps you can take to protect your identity, check out the RCMP’s Scams and Fraud guide.

4 Smart Tips for Talking to an Auto Mechanic

4 Smart Tips for Talking to an Auto Mechanic

Unless you have a good working knowledge of how your car works, talking with an auto mechanic is an experience that can sometimes make you feel like you are at the mercy of your technician.

There are a few things you can do, however, to make the interaction go more smoothly and to help you feel empowered every time you visit the auto repair shop.


No one knows better than you the issues you are having with your vehicle. Be prepared to tell your mechanic as precisely as possible about any noise, leak or other problems you have noticed.

Specific details go a long way in helping your technician identify the issue. In particular, you should be ready to provide information about where the noise is coming from, when your car makes the noise, or the colour of the fluid that is leaking.

The following list of terms will help you better describe some of the problems your car may be having:

  • Brake fade: When you pump your brakes and the car travels more distance than usual before stopping.
  • Bucking: Engine delays when you accelerate or change gears causing the car to jerk.
  • Hesitation: Car takes a pause before moving after you push the accelerator.
  • Shimmy: This side-to-side motion is usually felt in the steering wheel or tires. Be prepared to tell your mechanic whether the shimmying occurs when you reach a certain speed or on a particular road surface.
  • Dieseling: When an engine continues to run and burn fuel after the car has been turned off. An engine that is dieseling will typically sputter when off.
  • Hard steering: Car is difficult to steer especially when turning or parking.



If your car requires multiple repairs, it is best to ask your mechanic for an itemized estimate that breaks down the cost of parts and labor for each service. You can also request that your mechanic prioritize which repairs need to happen first. With a written estimate in hand you can also compare prices with other mechanics by phone because you have a detailed description of the service you need.


If you are not sure you understand your mechanic’s explanation of what your car needs, you have a responsibility to ask questions.

A good technician will take the time to make sure you understand what is going on with your car and will likely even physically show you the problem if you ask.

A few smart questions you may want to ask include:

  • How long will the service take?
  • Do you offer any warranties on the work you are performing?
  • What is your policy on used parts?
  • Will you provide a detailed report of the work performed for my maintenance records?



Once your mechanic starts working on your vehicle, they may need to reach you to discuss additional repairs or issues they discover. If you do not plan to stay in the waiting room while the repairs are made, leave a good contact number and be sure to keep your phone nearby so you can answer when they call.

Following these tips will go a long way in improving your communication with your auto mechanic and ensuring that your car gets the care and attention it deserves. Also, keep in mind that your insurance broker is an invaluable resource and is available to answer your questions and offer advice to help the interaction with your auto repair shop go more smoothly.

Child-Proofing 101 for New Parents

Child-Proofing 101 for New Parents

Bringing home a newborn from the hospital for the first time can be an exciting and sometimes intimidating experience for new parents.  In addition to caring for their new bundle of joy, new moms and dads have a responsibility to provide a home environment that is safe and nurturing once their little one becomes mobile.

To help ensure your home is ready for the pitter-patter of little feet, we’ve prepared a few tips to help you make the most accident-prone areas in your home safer for your little one.


Most babies and toddlers love bath time. Without careful child-proofing and close supervision, their curious, fun-loving nature could lead to painful slips, falls or other more serious bath time accidents. To keep this daily ritual fun for your child, be sure to:

  • Install a slip-free liner in your bathtub.
  • Keep bathroom cleaners and adult shampoo and bath products safely out of reach.
  • Place a bath rug at the foot of the tub and be sure your child’s feet are completely dry before they walk on tile or slippery floor surfaces.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a tub of water—no matter how low the water is.
  • Use tear-free shampoo and bubble bath.
  • Never use hot water to draw a child’s bath. Warm water is best for a child’s sensitive skin.


With a complete supply of “toys” like pots, pans, skillets and spatulas, the kitchen is another fun playground for mobile children. While many of these kitchen “toys” seem harmless, they are often too heavy for little ones to carry and can cause unnecessary falls, bangs and bruises for little fingers and toes. Installing locks or latches to your drawers and cabinets is a fairly quick and easy solution that will keep your kids safe and give you peace of mind while you are busy cooking or washing dishes.

There are also a number of easy-to-install appliance guards and locks that will keep your child protected around kitchen appliances like stove-tops, ovens and dishwashers that are within reach of little fingers.


Although working from home is an increasingly desirable option for more and more Canadian parents, a home office is ripe with choking hazards for small children. When you are child-proofing the rest of the house, do not forget your office—even if your office is supposedly “off-limits” to your child. In particular, be sure to:

  • Safely tuck away cords and wires from all office machines so they are tripping or choking hazards.
  • Unplug your office shredder when you are not using it.
  • Place safety latches on office drawers and file cabinets.
  • Keep paper clips, push pins, rubber bands, scissors, sharp pencils and pens, and other small or sharp office supplies out of reach.

By taking these precautions to child-proof your home, you can help ensure that your child will not be in harm’s way while at home

Insuring Your Vacation Property

Insuring Your Vacation Property

Even though you don’t live there year-round, it is a smart idea to have good coverage on your vacation property.

For the most part, insurance coverage for a vacation property works the same as the coverage on your primary residence. There are, however, a few key differences in the type of coverage you can select for a second home based on how often and for what purpose you use the property.

Some things you will want to consider when deciding which coverage is right for you include:

  • Do you only use the property during the summer months?
  • Do you make regular weekend visits?
  • Do you rent to other occupants throughout the year?

Keep in Mind:

  • In contrast to the comprehensive policy on most primary residences, insurance coverage for a vacation property typically includes Named Perils coverage instead of All Risk coverage. This limited coverage only insures against the risks specified in the policy, such as fire or windstorm.
  • Many insurers will require that you insure your primary residence with them before they will insure a vacation property.
  • Because you only occupy your vacation property part of the time, you will likely pay more for coverage against risks like water damage, burglary or vandalism.

Typical Exclusions from Vacation Property Insurance

The following items are usually not covered in an insurance policy for your home away from home:

  • Sewer back-up
  • Perishable foods stored in the freezer
  • Fence and yard equipment
  • Landscaping items such as trees and plants

Choosing the Right Coverage

Four types of coverage you should consider for your vacation property include:

  • Personal Liability Coverage

Protecting yourself against accidents that might happen to people on your property is the primary function of personal or third-person liability coverage. This coverage also protects you if a fire happens at your vacation property and spreads causing damage to surrounding property.

  • Contents Coverage

This coverage protects any items you keep at your vacation property. Any items that you transport back and forth from your primary residence to your vacation property would be covered under your primary home insurance policy. This type of coverage may automatically be included with your secondary home insurance package, but if your belongings exceed the value of that coverage, you can purchase this additional coverage. The perils insured for your vacation property will generally be less inclusive than on your home.

  • Detached Private Structure

Detached structures on your vacation property like garages, sheds or boat houses may have limited or no coverage under your vacation property insurance package. This additional coverage will help ensure you have adequate coverage for these structures.

  • Replacement Value

This coverage allows you to replace covered items at current market prices without deduction for depreciation.

Does Your Home Have a Weeping Tile?

Does Your Home Have a Weeping Tile?

A weeping tile or foundation drain is an underground perforated pipe that runs along the bottom of a home’s foundation.

Older Canadian homes (those built before the 1940s or 1950s) may not have foundation drains.

If you find your home does not have a foundation drain and you experience serious infiltration flooding, you should consider having a foundation drain installed.


A weeping tile that is directly connected to your home’s sanitary sewer lateral, it increases the amount of water that enters the municipal sewer system during a heavy rainfall.

Disconnecting your weeping tile from the sanitary or storm sewer can help reduce the chances that you and your neighbours will experience basement flooding. It can also reduce the risk of structural damage to your home.

Check out this video, courtesy of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction:


When weeping tiles are disconnected from sewer laterals, a sump-pit and sump pump must be installed. The sump pump is used to pump water from the weeping tiles to the lot’s surface. In some unique cases, municipalities may recommend a sump pump to pump weeping tile water to the storm sewer system.


Sump pumps get blocked and can fail if they are not routinely inspected and maintained. You can inspect the sump pump by pouring water into the sump pit, and seeing whether or not the pump starts automatically. Sump pumps are electric and stop working during a power failure. As such, you should use a back-up system to make sure the pump works when you need it. Talk to your plumber or electrician about options.