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Preventing Identity Theft and Identity Fraud

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the act of acquiring another person’s personal information (i.e. name, social insurance number, drivers license number, address, personal identification numbers, usernames and passwords, bank account numbers, passport numbers, etc.) with the intent to use it for criminal purposes, including committing fraud.

What is identity fraud?

Identity fraud is the actual use of stolen identity information to commit various types of fraud. Social insurance numbers can be stolen and used to obtain false lines of credit and rack up debt. Identity can be stolen and used to disguise a criminal record. Debit or credit card information can be used to make significant and unaffordable purchases.

Personal information can be obtained for the use of identity fraud through mail theft, dumpster diving, extortion and other Internet schemes including phishing, hacking, viruses and skimming.

Identity theft is a serious crime that, when caught, can result in serious jail time. Major fraud in Ontario typically results in a three to six year sentence.

How often does identity fraud occur?

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) and the RCMP’s Anti-Fraud Centre reported that Canadians lost over $21 million in 2018 due to identity fraud, an increase of almost $12 from the year before.

How can I prevent becoming the victim of identity fraud?

Identity fraud can results in tremendous financial loss and difficulty restoring a good name. If you find yourself the victim of an identity fraud scheme, you are advised to call the police to inform them of the incident, as well as any financial institutions where you information may be compromised.

Luckily, there are many simple ways to protect your personal information and to prevent identity theft, and consequently, identity fraud. See tips below to prevent yourself from being in this type of situation:

• Carefully monitor your bills, transaction history, credit reports and credit card statements for all of your financial accounts. This will help you identify if identity theft occurs.
• Limit who has access to your information, including friends and family members.
• Destroy cheques completely if you deposit them electronically. Destroy all cheques immediately if closing a chequing account.
• When using a public ATM, take your receipts with you and be sure that they are disposed of properly. If you are going to throw it out, shred it first.
• Always shield the screen at an ATM when you are inputting your personal identification number.
• Do not carry any extra identification (i.e. Social Insurance Card, passport, birth certificate, extra credit cards) unless absolutely necessary.
• If you move, make sure you make your knew address known by all financial institutions and government agencies as soon as possible.
• Be careful what information you are sharing on the web. If you are required to input personal information online, make sure it is on a reputable website.
• Memorize and do not write your personal identification numbers down. Similarly, avoid creating identification numbers that can be easily guessed.
• Be very sceptical of individuals or businesses that ask you for personal information, especially if you did not seek their services. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• Avoid clicking on or opening unknown website links, particularly if they are emailed to you from an unknown and untraceable email.
• If you cannot swipe or tap your credit card yourself and are required to hand it over to a cashier, make sure you do not lose sight of it and check your statement afterwards.

Sponsored by the team at Investigation Hotline.