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Identity Theft

What is identity theft?
Identity theft essentially involves a fraudster stealing or using the identity of another person (or of a business) and using that information to comit fraudulent transactions and activities. All that a fraudster needs to impersonate you are the following personal information:
• Your name
• Your address
• Your date of birth
• Your social insurance number
• Your mother’s maiden name

With such information, a fraudster can then conduct fraudulent transactions such as opening bank accounts, apply for credit products such as credit cards, and loans, obtain cellular phone service, purchase automobiles, and the list goes on.

How can I prevent myself from being a Victim?

  • Sign credit cards once you receive it.
  • Destroy all credit cards once they have become expired or if you do not use them.
  • Carry only the identification information and credit cards that you need. Do not carry your social insurance card around; leave it in a secure place.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles and follow up with your creditors and utility companies if your bills do not arrive on time.
  • Carefully, check all of your credit card statements. If you notice a charge on your statement you do not recognize or are missing statements, contact your credit card company immediately.
  • Destroy all sensitive paperwork you no longer need, such as bank machine receipts, receipts from credit card purchases, utility bills, and any document that contains personal and/or financial information such as pay stubs. Destroy pre-approved credit cards before disposing the offer letter.
  • Secure all personal information in your home or office so that is is not accessible to anyone else.
  • Do not give personal information out over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you are the one who initiated the contact and know the person or organization with whom you are dealing.
  • Password-protect your credit card, bank, and phone accounts so that nobody can access those accounts or make changes to them. Also, do not keep a written record of your PIN number, social insurance, or computer passwords where an identity thief can easily find them. Do not carry such information in your purse or wallet.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from the major credit reporting agencies at least once every year. Pay particular attention at any unauthorized credit inquiries and accounts opened.
  • Keep all unused Cheques in a secure location.
  • Key in personal identification numbers privately when you use direct purchase terminals, bank machines, or telephones.

What to do if your identity is stolen
Should you find out that you are a victim of identity theft, there are three critical steps that should be initiated immediately.

Step One: Contact your bank and credit card company to verify that no unauthorized activity has taken place.

Step Two: Contact the two major credit bureaux in Canada – TransUnion and Equifax – to alert them of the situation. They are then able to place notes on your file which will inform potential credit grantors of the situation. Credit grantors will then scrutinize your identity before granting credit to you or someone purporting to be you.

Step Three: Contact the local police department and make a statement about the situation. This may prove useful in defending yourself against debts incurred by a fraudster purporting to be you.

How do I know if I am a victim of identity theft

  • One of your creditors informs you that they have received an application for credit with your name, address and/or Social Insurance Number.
  • Telephone calls or letters state that you have been approved or declined by a creditor to which you never applied
  • Telephone calls from merchants or your credit card company stating that they have received an order from you and are calling to verify the authenticity of the order.
  • You no longer receive your credit card statements or you notice pieces of mail are no longer delivered to you.
  • Your credit card statement includes unusual purchases.
  • A collection agency informs you they are collecting for a defaulted account that has been established with your identity but not opened by you.
  • Emails from financial institutions or online payment service stop arriving or alert you of suspicious activity or of transactions you have not authorized.

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