Identity theft is a serious, active issue in Canada. It can lead to months, if not years, of both financial and legal struggle, countless court dates, and potentially severe financial loss. Identity theft occurs when your personal information is stolen by someone with criminal intent. These criminals typically look for any of the following information:
- Your full name
- Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- Driver’s license
- Credit card or banking information
- Home address
With a combination of this information, a criminal can apply for credit in your name, take out loans in your name, gain access to your banking and credit accounts and ultimately rack up a significant amount of debt in your name.
Watch this video and learn how to identify a loan scam.
How to Tell if You’re a Victim of Identity Theft
It’s important to keep in mind that fraud can show up in a variety of different ways. The details of your experience with identity fraud will be different than someone else’s. That being said, there are several warning signs that everyone should be on the lookout for:
- A creditor that you already have a relationship with or a new creditor contacts you to say that they received your application and it includes specific personal information about you.
- A bank or credit card company contacts you to let you know that you’ve either been approved or rejected for a credit or loan product you didn’t apply for.
- You’ve stopped receiving important banking or credit statements in the mail.
- You’ve noticed strange purchases on your credit card statements.
- A debt collector contacts you to collect a debt that is not yours.
Unfortunately, the effects of having your identity stolen can wreak havoc on your finances for weeks, if not months, before you realize it. Because of this, we can’t emphasize enough that it’s much easier to implement a few changes into your financial habits than it is to solve the issues caused by identity theft.
How to Avoid Identity Theft?
- Carrying around your Social Insurance Card, passport, or birth certificate is sometimes necessary on certain occasions. But, losing or misplacing any of these items could seriously put your identity at risk.
- Always make sure you inform your bank and any creditors or lenders if you change your address. Mail from these businesses often contains important personal information that could help a criminal steal your identity.
- Always inform your bank and creditors if you lose or misplace your credit or debit card (click here to learn more about debit card fraud).
- Unless you absolutely trust them, don’t give any family members or friends access to your bank or credit accounts.
- After using an ATM, either take the receipt with you or simply say no when asked if you would like a receipt.
- Never leave your wallet or purse alone, even if it’s just for a short period of time.
- If you ever choose to close a chequing account, make sure you properly dispose of any paperwork and cheques that you no longer need.
- Always make sure you review both your credit card and bank statements to make sure there are no suspicious charges.
- Limit the number of credit accounts you have and make sure that you can manage and keep track of them all.
- If you receive a call from a bank or a credit card company, never give them any personal information, especially your Social Insurance Number. Giving this type of information over the phone is unsafe unless you can verify that they are in fact who they say they are.
- Try to avoid having your SIN be an identifier for a bank or credit account.
- Always double check your utility bill and other subscription bills to make sure that they are in fact yours.
- Always memorize your PINs, if you’re having trouble memorizing them, choose an easy to remember set of numbers.
- Whenever you enter your PIN, make sure that there is no on around you who may be watching you.
- Never share your PIN or write it down for anyone.
- Never choose numbers that have meaning, for example, your date of birth. This information is too easy to obtain.
- Always tear up any paperwork associated with any of your bank, credit, or utility accounts before you dispose of them.
- A credit application that you receive in the mail, that you didn’t request, could pose a serious risk to your identity. Never fill out or submit this type of application, especially if it asks for your SIN.
- Get in the habit of requesting a copy of your credit report, at least once a year. Keeping an eye on your credit report will help you catch any unauthorized credit accounts that have been opened in your name.
Keep an eye out for this CRA scam.
What to do if You’re the Victim of Identity Theft
If you believe that you are the victim of identity theft, here are the steps you should follow to make sure that the situation is dealt with as soon as possible.
- Call all the banks you have accounts with and all of your credit card providers. Cancel your cards and make sure that they are aware of your current fraud problems.
- Get in contact with the local police and file a report with them.
- Contact the two Canadian credit report bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion. Request a copy of your credit report from both bureaus. Ask about placing a fraud alert on your file.
- If you suspect that the fraud was committed with your mail, contact Canada Post.
- Figure out what organizations gave the identity thief your personal information or provided them with credit or money in your name.
- Contact them immediately and have them investigate this issue.
- Ask them what you can do to help the process.
- Ask if there is a police report number associated with their investigation. Keep this number for your records.
- Don’t forget to ask them about any financial losses you have incurred.
Identity theft comes in all forms, from the most sophisticated computer viruses to the most simple of schemes. Criminals are able to steal your identity and then reap the benefits all within a short period of time. This is why it’s so important, now more than ever, to equip yourself with the information you need to help prevent identity theft.