Identity theft is a plague in North America. It is the fastest growing non-violent crime in Canada. Identity theft is when someone takes possession of your personal data with the intention of committing financial fraud. Fraud includes applying for new credit, making purchases with your credit card, and in serious cases try to sell your property or embezzle money.
The RCMP receives over 11 000 complaints each year, with an estimated cost of 10 million dollars. It can be difficult for victims to repair the damage, their credit and their good name.
Here are a few ways to protect yourself:
– Do not carry all your personal information and cards in your wallet: you don’t need your SIN, health card, passport and every single credit cards you have at all times.
– Do not give-out your personal information to just anyone: a common technique used by thieves is to contact people pretending to be employed by their banks, credit card companies and try to obtain information such as address, birth date or account number. Do not share any info, unless you initiated the call or sent an e-mail.
– Shred personal documents and collect your mail: scavenging through garbage and mailbox break-in are the 2 easiest way to steal identity.
– Check all your statements when received. Look for unusual charges or charges you do not recognize. Be wary if you don’t receive bills when you should. Your mail might be redirected.
– Check your credit report regularly. If someone applies for new credit using your name, it will show on your credit report.
If your identity has been stolen:
– Contact the 2 credit bureaus of Canada -Equifax & TransUnion- and have them put a fraud alert on your file.
– Contact your bank and credit card companies: these institutions will assist you by cancelling cards and investigating suspicious transactions.
– Change all your passwords and PIN
– If your SIN was stolen, contact Service Canada
– If your driver’s licence was stolen, contact any driving licence office (ICBC in British Columbia)
– If your passport was stolen, contact a passport office
– File a complaint with the RCMP
– Contact Canada Post if you are not receiving your mail or you are regularly receiving mail for another person
When your identity has been stolen, you need to act quickly. The longer you wait, the more difficult and time-consuming it will be. There is also a time-limit to contest fraudulent financial charges.