Identity theft is on the rise and it can happen to anyone.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, like your name, Social Insurance Number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
An identity thief can take over your finances, open new bank accounts, transfer bank balances, apply for loans, credit cards, purchase vehicles, etc. What this means is that your credit rating can be completely ruined without you even knowing it – this can lead to future credit or job offer denials.
Most people don’t realize how easily criminals can obtain their personal information. By managing your personal information wisely you can help protect against identity theft.
Here are some ways your identity can be stolen:
- “Shoulder surfing”. You are watched as you punch in your ATM card number or listened in on your conversation as you give your credit-card number over the telephone.
- “Dumpster diving”. Someone goes through your garbage to find copies of your cheques, credit card or bank statements, applications for “pre-approved” credit cards or other records with your name, address, and your telephone number.
- Internet hacking. Your personal information is acquired over the Internet through “spam” or unsolicited e-mails that promises them some sort of benefit or reward but requires personal data first.
Make yourself a harder target for Identity theft:
- Sign all credit cards in permanent ink as soon as you receive them. Never lend them to anyone. Cancel the ones you do not use.
- Carry only the identification and credit cards you need.
- Keep your cards in view at all times when making a purchase; ensure you take your card back as soon as a transaction swipe has been completed with your card. Avoid saying your account number aloud so that others can hear.
- Never leave your purse or wallet unattended.
- Never leave receipts at bank machines or at unattended gasoline pumps
- Never provide personal information such as SIN, date of birth, credit card numbers, or PIN over the telephone unless you initiate the call.
- Avoid solicitations of promotions or surveys offering instant prizes or awards,
- Never give your account number over the phone on an unsolicited call – if the issuer employs the caller, they will already know your account information.
- Guard your mail. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery and do not leave pieces of mail lying around your residence or work site. Ensure your mail is re-routed if you move or change your mailing address.
- Shred or otherwise destroy pre-approved credit card applications, credit card receipts, insurance forms, physician statements, bills and related information, when no longer needed. Do not just toss them in your trash or recycling bin
- Always be aware of your surroundings to make sure no one is watching you input your PIN.
- Avoid using information like your mother’s maiden name, birth dates, last four digits of you SIN, or home phone number for your passwords.
- Keep a list of all your credit accounts and bank accounts in a secure place so you can quickly call the issuers to inform them about missing or stolen cards.
Some indicators that your identity is being used include:
- A creditor informs you that an application for credit was received with your name and address, which you did not apply for.
- You receive credit card statements or other bills in your name, which you did not apply for.
- You no longer receive credit card statements or you notice that not all of your mail is delivered.
- A collection agency informs you they are collecting for a defaulted account established with your identity and you never opened the account.