It Is Your Good Name – Identity Theft
Recently, our division has received many calls from citizens asking questions about personal identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Insurance Number, credit card number or other identifying information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Types of personal information stolen consist of names, addresses, phone numbers, social insurance numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card and banking information, bankcards, calling cards, birth certificates and passports.
Identity thieves get your information by any of the following means:
- stealing mail, such as bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, and new cheque and tax information, before delivery.
- stealing delivered mail by breaking into mailboxes,
- completing a fraudulent change of address form to redirect your mail to another location,
- searching through personal or business trash, or the public trash dumps,
- breaking into mailboxes, delivery boxes and other Canada Post property to steal incoming or outgoing mail, or
- using a fake identification to trick someone into revealing personal or financial information, as seen in the CRA scam.
Recovery is time consuming and costly. There are plenty of visits and phone calls to banks, creditors, and the credit bureau who may have given or sent out information. Let’s face it – identity theft is costly and inconvenient. We need to be alert and do what we can to prevent this from happening to our families and friends.
Reduce the risk and protect your good name
- Find alternatives to paper bills. For instance, eliminate paper statements, use online account access, and instruct your bank to stop returning cancelled cheques with monthly statements.
- Do not leave outgoing mail unattended overnight. Instead, use a post office to deposit your mail or drop off your mail close to the stated pick-up time located on the post box. As well, remove mail from your mailbox promptly after delivery.
- If going away, have your mail collected by family or a trusted neighbour. Upon request, the post office will hold your mail.
- Pay attention to billing cycles. If credit card or utility bills fail to arrive, contact companies immediately to ensure bills have not fraudulently been redirected.
- Scrutinize all financial statements. Do not dismiss minor amounts and make sure to report errors to the bank as soon as possible.
- Do not carry unnecessary credit cards and leave your SIN card at home.
- Be careful about sharing your personal information, especially over the Internet and over the phone.
- Ensure you have computer security consisting of a firewall, anti-virus software, and/or Spyware. An unprotected computer is like leaving your filing cabinet out on the street.
- Be careful what you throw out; your recycling bin and garbage may be vulnerable.
- Most importantly, every home should have a cross cut shredder. Shred documents that contain personal financial information, such as statements, credit card offers, copies of credit applications, receipts and insurance forms. The shredder is the #1 crime prevention tool in identity theft.
- Check your credit bureau report at least once each year.
If you suspect or are a victim of identity theft, the following tips will assist you in the recovery process: collect your thoughts, start a log book, contact local police, contact financial institutions, contact a credit bureau, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to restore your identification, recheck credit reports annually, and get insurance protection. To reduce damages, you must take immediate action the moment you suspect you have become a victim of identity theft.
Remember: The three most important things to keep in mind are to guard what information you already have, be diligent in the way you give information out about yourself, and keep an eye on the external custodians of your personal information (i.e. employers, credit bureau, vital statistics, banks’ professional associations). You can protect yourself!