What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of your personal information such as Social Insurance or driver’s license numbers, in order to impersonate you. The information can be used to obtain credit, merchandise, etc. in your name, or to provide the thief with false credentials. In addition to running up debt, an impostor might provide false identification to police, creating a criminal record or leaving outstanding arrest warrants for the person whose identity has been stolen.
Identity theft is categorized in two ways: true name and account takeover.
True name identity theft means that the thief will use personal information to open new accounts such as credit cards, establish cellular phone service, or bank ccounts in order to obtain blank checks.
Account takeover identity theft means the theif uses personal information to gain access to the person’s existing accounts. Typically, the thief will change the mailing address on an account and run up a huge bill before the person whose identity has been stolen realizes there is a problem. The Internet has made it easier for an identity thief to use the information they’ve stolen because transactions can be made without any personal interaction.
Identity thieves are looking for the following information:
- full name
- date of birth
- Social Insurance Numbers
- full address
- mother’s maiden name
- username and password for online services
- driver’s license number
- personal identification numbers (PIN)
- credit card information (numbers, expiry dates and the last three digits printed on the signature panel)
- bank account numbers
- passport number
The new legislation on identity theft provides a complete list of identity documents.
The new section 402.1 of the Criminal Code lists the definition and examples of identity information.
What Your Information Could be Used For
Criminals can use your stolen or reproduced personal or financial information to:
- access your bank accounts
- open new bank accounts
- transfer bank balances
- apply for loans, credit cards and other goods and services
- make purchases
- hide their criminal activities
- obtain passports or receive government benefits
Using identity theft to facilitate organized criminal and terrorist activities also appears to be a growing trend.
How Can You Find Out if Your Identity was Stolen
The best way to find out is to monitor your hard copy or on-line financial accounts frequently and to check your credit report regularly for any unusual activities. If you receive calls from collection agencies about unfamiliar accounts, or if you applied for credit and were unexpectedly turned down, you should investigate further.
If you suspect or know that you are a victim of identity theft or fraud, or if you unwittingly provided personal information or financial information:
Step 1 – Contact your local police force and file a report.
Step 2 – Contact your bank/financial institution and credit card company
Step 3 – Contact the two national credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
Prevention is the best way to deal with this crime:
- Identity theft can occur over the Internet or telephone, or via fax or regular mail. Therefore, be particularly wary of unsolicited e-mails, telephone calls or mail attempting to extract personal or financial information from you.
- Ask yourself if you really need all of the identity documents you carry in your wallet or purse. Remove any you don’t need and keep them in a secure place instead.
- Periodically check your credit reports, bank and credit card statements and report any irregularities promptly to the relevant financial institution and to the credit bureaus.
- During transactions, it’s safer to swipe your cards yourself than it is to allow a cashier to do it for you. If you must hand over your card, never lose sight of it.
- Always shield your personal identification number when using an ATM or a PIN pad.
- Memorize all personal identification numbers for payment cards and telephone calling cards. Never write them on the cards.
- Familiarize yourself with billing cycles for your credit and debit cards.
- Trash bins are a goldmine for identity thieves. Make sure you shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage.
- When you change your address, make sure you notify the post office and all relevant financial institutions (your bank and credit card companies).