Protect Your Identity
What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or consent to commit a crime such as fraud or theft.
Identity thieves steal key pieces of your personal information and use that information to impersonate you and commit crimes in your name. In addition to names, addresses and phone numbers, identity thieves look for social insurance numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card and banking information, bank cards, calling cards, birth certificates and passports. They may physically steal these documents or may uncover your personal information in other ways, unbeknownst to you.
Identity thieves can manipulate your information and invade your personal and financial life. They can use stolen identities to go on spending sprees, open new bank accounts, divert mail, apply for loans, credit cards and social benefits, rent apartments, and even commit more serious crimes under your name.
- Bills and statements do not arrive when they should. They may have been stolen from the mailbox or someone has changed the mailing address
- You start getting phone calls from collection agencies or creditors for an account you don’t have or that is up to date
- Financial statements show withdrawals or transfers you didn’t make
- A creditor calls to say you have been approved or denied credit that you haven’t applied for
- You are denied credit for reasons that do not match your understanding of your financial position
While no one – unfortunately – can completely prevent identity theft, you can minimize your risk by managing your personal information wisely and cautiously. The following tips will help you guard your personal information, documents, computer and contents and be vigilant in protecting yourself and identity.
Guard your personal information and documents
- If any of your key documents (such as birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, credit card, bank card) are lost or stolen, notify the issuer immediately
- Shred or destroy sensitive personal documents before tossing them into the garbage or recycling
- Beware of mail, phone or internet promotions that ask for personal information
- Cut up expired and unused credit and debit cards
- Lock your household mailbox if possible
- If you use ABMs or point-of-sale terminals, shield the entry of your PIN
- Don’t leave personal information lying around at home, in your vehicle or at the office
- Find out how your employer ensures your personal information is private
- Put only your name and address on your personal cheques
- Carry only the documents and cards you need
Keep your computer and its contents safe
Computer technology makes it easier for criminals to access personal and financial information. Thwart identity thieves by taking these precautions.
- Use a personal firewall
- Disable file-sharing software to prevent unauthorized access to your computer
- Install virus protection software and update it regularly
- Be careful what you open. Email from strangers could contain viruses or programs to hijack your internet connection and damage your computer
- Don’t send personal information via email
- Make sure you truly delete all personal and confidential information before selling, recycling or discarding your computer. Even though you’ve deleted files from folders, remnants may still be on the hard drive. Use a secure hard drive overwrite utility to reduce this risk
- Shop and bank safely online at websites that use encryption and secure pages for your information
Stay on top of all the little details – this can make a big difference!
- Get a copy of your credit report once a year. By checking this information, you can spot debts that aren’t yours and see who has been asking about you
- Know when your credit card, financial statements and utility bills are due. If they don’t arrive when they should, contact the company
- Pay attention to credit card expiry dates. If the replacement card doesn’t arrive, call the company
- Keep credit card, debit card and ABM transaction records so you can match them to your statements
- Review your bank and credit card statements and report any discrepancies immediately
- Keep a list of names, account numbers and expiration dates of your cards in a secure place
- Memorize all passwords and personal identification numbers
- Keep your key documents secure. These include your driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, Social Insurance Card, citizenship or immigration documents