With everything being online these days, it's become even easier for cyber criminals to steal someone's identity. Here's the 101 on identity theft including what it is, how you can protect yourself and what to do if your identity has been stolen.
Identity theft is when a third party steals key pieces of data about you and uses it to commit a crime. Information that's most commonly sought by identity thieves includes:
- Driver's licence
- Credit card details
- Social insurance number
Criminals will typically use this information for personal or financial gain. Here are some examples of how your information might be used:
- Accessing your bank accounts
- Applying for loans and/or credit cards in your name
- Obtaining passports by duplicating your information
- Receiving government benefits in your name
Prevention is the easiest strategy to protect yourself. Always be observant when dealing with your finances – shield your PIN at ATMs, check your billing statements regularly, and be wary of shady internet sites or telephone calls requesting payment information.
Also, don’t carry around important documents in your purse or wallet. They’re safer in a secure place where they aren’t being exposed to open environments. When the time comes to get rid of any of those documents (or any other personal or financial information), never throw it in with regular trash. Instead, make sure all documents are shredded so thieves can’t reuse them.
Act as soon as you can if you think (or know) that your personal or financial information has been stolen, or if you have unintentionally provided information to a suspicious third-party.
- 1. Contact your local police department. Make sure you get a report number for future reference.
- 2. Speak with your financial institution and your credit card company. They can investigate any transactions immediately and issue new card numbers.
- 3. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Call the two national credit bureaus of Canada:
Equifax CanadaToll-free: 1-800-465-7166
TransUnion CanadaToll-free: 1-877-525-3823
- 4. Report all fraud to the
Canadian Anti-Fraud CentreToll-free: 1-888-495-8501. This government service collects information and criminal intelligence on fraud and works towards prevention and awareness.
Most often, identity theft is automatically covered by your home, condo or tenant insurance and if not it’s usually available to add to your policy for a small cost. This covers you and anyone else on your policy in case your identity is stolen. Legal fees and expenses for replacing legal documents (like a driver’s licence or passport) are covered up to a limit. Often, you’re even covered for lost wages during the time it takes to sort the issue out.
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