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What is Identity Theft?

Identify theft is a serious criminal offense that is not taken lightly in Canada. As it becomes easier and more accessible to steal our identities, we must be increasingly vigilant in protecting them. The first step in preventing identity theft is understanding exactly what it is and how it happens. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, identity fraud is defined as the act of “acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes.” Identity theft is defined as the “actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person (living or dead) in connection with various frauds.”

There are many types of identity theft that we must be aware of. Financial identity theft, the most common and reported type of identity theft, occurs when a thief uses your identity to access and spend your money. It can be as complex as a thief taking your banking information and making large purchases or simply stealing your social insurance number to take your annual tax return. These situations can have both short-term and long-term consequences. In criminal identity theft or identity cloning, someone may use your identity to conceal their own, which is often used to evade criminal charges. Medical identity theft occurs when a thief uses your insurance benefits to access your healthcare privileges and child identity theft occurs when a minor’s identity is used for the personal gain of the thief.

The intricacy and sophistication of identity theft can vary from very unsophisticated (i.e. mail theft) to elaborate schemes (i.e. criminal identity theft), and therefore you cannot underestimate any kind of threat. It is easy to unknowingly provide personal or financial information to someone who is prepared to take advantage of you, therefore, you must be very protective of all personal information including social insurance number, passwords, driver’s licence number, personal identification numbers, credit card information, signatures, passport numbers and bank account numbers. An identity thief can use this personal information to access your bank accounts, make purchases for their own profit, receive government benefits and even disguise their criminal activities.

If you suspect you or someone you know has been a victim of identify fraud, make sure to report it to local police and contact your financial institutions (bank, credit card companies, etc.). In the event you become the victim of identity fraud or suspect that you have become a victim, you may also want to consider hiring a Private Investigator who will dedicate him or herself to your case and give you a better chance of finding the individual responsible for stealing your identity. They can help you in court and help you recover your lost funds. Additionally, they can help you prepare for any consequential set backs and provide you with tips for preventing identity theft in the future.