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Monthly Archives: September 2017

Donating to Charities and Avoiding Scams

Whether they are providing supplies to help the victims of a disaster or simply want to support a cause they believe in, Canadians donate to charities each year to help those in need. And while most charities are trustworthy and work hard to provide for the less fortunate, there are dishonest groups of people who prey upon the good intentions of others.

By creating fake charity campaigns or abusing donations, scam artists take advantage of those who want to help. To ensure that your donations directly support your intended cause, it’s important to learn some best practices for avoiding scams and choosing a trustworthy charity.

How to Avoid Scams

Despite the urge to help a cause as soon as possible, it is important to do some research before donating to any charity. Consider the following best practices to ensure that your donations go to a legitimate charity:

  • Never wire money to someone who claims to be a charity. Legitimate charities do not ask for wire transfers. Once you wire the money, you’ll probably never get it back.
  • Be cautious about bloggers and social media posts that provide charity suggestions. Don’t assume that the person recommending the charity has fully researched the organization’s credibility.
  • Donate through a charity’s official website only and never through emails. Scammers have a knack for creating fake email accounts that seem legitimate.
  • Ensure that the charity explains on its website how your money will be used.
  • Be wary of charities that claim to give 100 per cent of donations to victims. That is often a false claim, as well-structured organizations need to use some of their donations to cover administrative costs. Be sure to review the charity’s financial information, which can often be found online.
  • Never offer unnecessary personal information, such as a copy of your driver’s licence. However, it is common for legitimate charities to ask for your mailing address, and it is safe for you to provide it.
  • Ask for written information about the charity, including its name, address and telephone number. Legitimate charities will be able to provide you with information about its mission, how your donation will be used and proof that any contribution you make is tax deductible.
  • Confirm the charity’s registration information through the Canada Revenue Agency (1-800-267-2384).
  • Write cheques to specific charities and not individuals. Whenever possible, avoid providing cash donations as it is not traceable and cannot be cancelled. It’s also important to ensure that your online payments are secure.
  • Be warry of organizations that use free emails from Google, Yahoo and similar services, strange phone numbers or names that are similar to popular charities.
  • Be cautious when using online donation platforms. For example, GoFundMe is an up-and-coming crowdfunding service that allows people to raise money for a wide variety of circumstances. Despite its popularity, visitors to the site should be cautious about the campaigns to which they donate. Visitors can report suspicious campaigns directly to GoFundMe via its official website.

Above all, it’s important to avoid being forced into donating. Reputable charities will rarely pressure individuals into donating on the spot. If you come across a charity scam, you should report it to your local police department, as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

How to Choose a Charity

Even legitimate charities need to be considered with care. To ensure that your donations are going to a worthy cause, search a list of qualified charities, which can be found on the government of Canada’s website.

Donors can use this database to confirm that a Canadian charity is registered, revoked, annulled, penalized or suspended. In addition, this service makes it easy to view a charity’s contact information, general actives and financial information. Together, donors can use this tool to help guide their donation decisions.

When choosing a charity it’s also important to consider if your donation will qualify for a tax deduction. In order to qualify, your donation must go to one of the following:

  • A registered charity, Canadian amateur athletic association, national arts service organization or municipality
  • A housing corporation resident that is registered in Canada and created to offer low-cost housing for the elderly
  • A municipal or public body that is registered and performing a function of government in Canada
  • The United Nations and agencies affiliated with the United Nations
  • Her Majesty in Right of Canada

Recognized Organizations

If you are concerned about how your donations will be used, it’s always a safe bet to choose a reputable, registered charity. Popular choices include the Canadian Cancer Society, World Vision Canada and the Canadian Red Cross. Just be sure to cross-reference these charities with the government of Canada as registration status can change suddenly.

Remember that there are other ways to provide relief that don’t involve monetary donations, especially if you live near an impacted area. Local food banks and blood centres commonly ask for donations during relief efforts.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved

What Should Canadians Affected by Equifax Data Breach Do?

Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States, was recently the victim of a massive cyber attack—an attack that may have compromised the personal information of 143 million people.

Impacted individuals were not simply limited to the United States either, as the hackers gained unauthorized access to personal information of certain Canadian and U.K. residents. Initial reports suggest 209,000 credit card numbers were stolen in the attack, some of which may belong to international customers.

The breach itself occurred between mid-May and July 2017 when cyber criminals gained access to sensitive data by exploiting a weak point in website software. In the United States, sensitive information like Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses and driver’s licence numbers were compromised.

The recent attack on Equifax is the third major cyber security threat the organization has experienced since 2015 and one of the largest risks to personally sensitive information in recent years. The attack is so severe, in fact, it’s likely that anyone with a credit report was affected.

If you are concerned that you may have been impacted by the breach, Equifax has set up a website to help individuals determine if any of their personal information may have been stolen.

It should be noted that it may not be obvious that you are a customer of Equifax, as the company gets its data from credit card companies, banks and lenders that report on credit activity. As such, it’s important to follow the appropriate steps and check to see if your information was compromised.

Additionally, you should review your online bank and credit card statements on a weekly basis. This will help you monitor any suspicious activity.

Equifax will work with regulators in Canada and the United Kingdom to determine appropriate next steps.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved

Greening Your Business

Organizations that “go green” do so in order to lessen the impact their operations have on the environment. Greening a business not only reduces wastes, conserves water and saves energy, but it can also result in the following:

  • Reduced costs due to consuming less. This means less overhead and an improved bottom line.
  • Reduced costs due to recycling and reusing materials and goods. In some cases, disposing of waste can be expensive, especially as landfill space gets smaller and smaller.
  • An enhanced public image. Being socially and environmentally responsible is an attractive trait to both potential customers and employees. Going green is a simple way to gain a competitive advantage or even attract new talent.

Going green has many perks, and companies that have the organizational support to develop environmentally friendly initiatives should consider implementing a green plan. While it’s not always easy or practical to overhaul a company’s environmental practices, the following steps can simplify the implementation process of a green policy:

  1. Create a green implementation team to create organized leadership.
  2. Inventory your initiatives and your organization’s current environmental footprint.
  3. Create a short list of realistic and impactful green initiatives.
  4. Set clear goals and measure your performance over time.
  5. Establish an implementation schedule for your goals. This will help you determine what tasks need to be done, who is responsible for specific items and what resources are needed.
  6. Roll out your plan and communicate the results across your organization.

Greening a business is not something that happens overnight. Organizations should continually evaluate their green plan and look for ways to continually improve.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved

3 Business Lessons from the HBO Hack

HBO, an American premium cable and satellite television network, was the victim of a data breach. On July 31, 2017, HBO revealed that a group of hackers had stolen 1.5 terabytes of data from the network. Following the breach, the cyber criminals were systematically leaking spoilers and unaired episodes of “Game of Thrones,” one of HBO’s flagship shows.

This hack demonstrates that intellectual property can be just as valuable to cyber criminals as personal identifiable information. To avoid falling victim to a similar cyber attack, organizations should keep in mind the following business lessons learned from the HBO hack:

  1. Having a communications plan in place is critical. Following the breach, HBO was quick to ease the concerns of stakeholders, assuring the public that no internal emails had been stolen. However, this turned out not to be the case, and HBO publicized misinformation. This can be damaging to a brand, as balancing transparency and authenticity following a cyber event is crucial. Having a formal communications strategy can help organizations map out what information is shared to the public and at what time.
  2. Cyber attacks can be damaging to an organization’s reputation. Even if the financial impact of the HBO breach ends up being minimal, the reputational damage has been done. The breach jeopardizes HBO’s image and undermines customer loyalty and trust that took years to build up.
  3. To protect your business from a cyber attack, you need to understand your vulnerabilities. It’s been reported that the HBO hackers used multiple points of entry to get into the company’s system and steal data. Organizations should understand their vulnerabilities to protect against attacks. Entry points can differ depending on the business, but often include employees connecting to networks, online printers and employees using a virtual private network while working remotely.

While you can never predict when a data breach will occur, keeping in mind the lessons above will ensure that your organization is adequately prepared.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved



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