Identity theft is a global crime where your personal or financial information is stolen to commit fraud in your name. It leads to severe financial and legal struggles. Identity thieves look for any of the following information:
- Full name
- Social insurance number (SIN)
- Driver’s license number
- Home address
- Mother’s maiden name
- Credit card information
- Username and password of online accounts
- Health card number
- Passport number
A combination of this information can be used to commit a wide range of identity theft crimes.
How do you know if your identity is stolen?
- If you receive calls from collection agencies about unfamiliar financial accounts
- Inquiries from unfamiliar companies seeking personal information
- Notifications from credit cards or banks stating that they have accepted or declined a credit application, you did not issue
- Credit card statements reflecting unusual purchases
An effective way to catch it early is by monitoring your financial accounts and getting credit reports issued by two national credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, at regular intervals. You should also place a request for fraud alert on your file.
What to do if the worst has happened?
While you cannot always prevent identity theft, its damage can be minimized by acting quickly and taking several measures such as:
- Reporting it to the local police force immediately and filing a report.
- Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, they provide useful information and guidance.
- Inform your bank and close all accounts immediately.
- Contact Service Canada, if you suspect that your SIN Number has been stolen
- Immediately change your username, password, and Personal Identification Number (PIN) associated with all online, offline and bank accounts.
- Notify Canada Post if you think your mail was stolen.
- Contact the Fraud Victim Assistance Department of TransUnion and Equifax Canada. They offer a seven-step program for protecting and assisting all victims of credit fraud.
- Get a new bank account number, card, and password. Do not share it with anyone.
How to avoid identity theft:
The best way to beat identity theft, is through prevention. There are simple measures you can take to cut down your chances of being a victim:
- Do not travel with important documents like your passport, SIN, or birth certificate, unless necessary.
- Install a lockable mailbox, and do not leave your mail unattended
- Shred all documents, financial or personal, before discarding them in your trash
- Do not have cheque books mailed to your address. Pick them up from the branch
- Scrutinize your financial statements and bills and challenge any unusual purchase
- Keep your chequing, saving or credit card account separate from your line of credit
- Memorize your passwords and PIN numbers and do not write them down.
- Cancel inactive accounts
- Do not entertain calls or offers that are too good to be true.
We always think that we won’t be the victim, but you truly never know. So, it is best to keep your guard up.