Being the victim of identity theft is disturbing enough. The long and difficult task of restoring your good name and credit rating can be even more troublesome. Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. They can use your information to purchase big-ticket items or apply for loans in your name.
Key information needed to steal your identity
- Current address
- Date of birth
- Social Insurance Number
- Mother’s maiden name (often used as a password)
How your identity can be stolen
Identity thieves may:
- Obtain credit reports by posing as a landlord, employer, creditor, etc.
- Skim credit and debit account numbers as your card is processed.
- Steal mail, including bank statements or pre-approved credit offers.
- Complete a change of address form to divert your mail.
- Steal personal information from your home, vehicle or wallet.
- Use the Internet to obtain personal information on unprotected servers when you make purchases or fill out forms.
What's done with your information?
With your personal information in hand, thieves can commit various forms of fraud under your name such as:
- Re-route mail to a new address.
- Gain access to financial accounts or open new accounts.
- Acquire utility and phone services.
- Apply for bank loans, mortgages and credit cards.
- Purchase vehicles or rent apartments.
Are you a victim?
Signs that you are a victim of identity theft:
- A creditor informs you than an application has been received or declined that you didn’t apply for.
- You receive statements in your name for charges that you did not make on credit you didn’t apply for.
- You no longer receive credit card statements or all of your mail is not being delivered.
- A collection agency informs you they are collecting on an account you did not open.
Ways to protect your identity
- Don’t leave purses or wallets in your vehicle, even if they are hidden.
- Never carry PINs or other passwords with you.
- Don’t carry your SIN card or birth certificate in your wallet.
- Avoid using obvious passwords like birth dates or phone numbers for PINs.
- Shred all paper with sensitive information – credit card statements, receipts, etc.
- Sign all new credit cards received immediately.
- Never disclose your credit card number or personal information online without receiving confirmation that your transaction is secure.
- Photocopy the contents of your wallet and store it in a safe place. Copy both side of each license, credit card, etc. as a record of your information and all the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel.
Securing your accounts
- Check your account statements regularly for unexplained charges.
- Read all bills carefully and report irregularities.
- Use a separate credit card with a low limit for vacations, video store memberships, online ordering, etc.
What to do if you're a victim
If you suspect that your personal information has been used to commit fraud or theft, take immediate action:
- Start a log of dates, people that you spoke with and exactly what they said.
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the two major Canadian credit reporting agencies, Equifax and Transunion. Request that a Fraud Alert be placed in your files and order copies of your credit reports.
- Contact the fraud department of creditors for any accounts that have been opened or tampered with fraudulently.
- File a report with the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
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