Identity fraud occurs when an individual assumes another person’s identity in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person’s name. The main benefits that motivate thieves are obtaining government benefits, having a clean criminal record, and acquiring financial and materialistic gains.
As part of your debt management, budgeting and financial planning efforts, you should also make sure you protect your personal financial information. In order to protect yourself and your money from identity fraud you should know the following things:
1. There are two kinds of identity fraud:
- Account takeover – Thief uses information to gain access to personal accounts.
- True name theft – Thief uses your personal information to open new accounts.
2. Your identity can be stolen in many ways:
- Shoulder Surfing – Someone watches you as you punch in your ATM card number or listens to you as you say your number out loud.
- Dumpster Diving – Someone goes through your garbage to find personal documents like bank statements, cheques or other records with your information.
- Internet Tracking – Scammers will send you emails where you are asked to provide personal information for some benefit that does not truly exist.
3. How to Protect yourself from identity fraud:
- Sign your credit cards in permanent ink when you receive them and immediately cancel them if you are not using them regularly.
- When disposing of personal records, use a paper shredder so you do not become a victim of dumpster diving.
- Do not write down your ATM card numbers or pin numbers. Try to memorize all of your numbers. If you have to write them down, keep them in a safe place.
- Practice safe computing by ensuring that you are only responding to emails from senders that you know. As well, do not trust all websites or be fooled by special offers that seem too good to be true.
4. If you think you may be a victim of identity fraud:
- Call your bank and credit card company to cancel your active cards immediately.
- Review all of your account statements to identify unknown purchases and report immediately.
- Call the police for assistance in finding the thief.
Identity fraud is more common than you may think. Make sure you are extra careful with your personal information and financial records. Take a look at our identity theft educational resources for more information about protecting yourself.