How Does Identity Theft Occur? What exactly does it mean? Identity theft refers to all types of crime in which someone uses your credit card, driver’s license, social insurance number or other personal identification numbers to commit fraud or other criminal activity. The thief actually poses as you.
Identity theft is on the rise in Canada. Your identity is valuable and unique. It takes a thief only a few hours to assume your identity but it can take you several months, even years, to restore your good name.
Don’t Let Anyone Take That Away!
Fact: Every year thousands of people are victims of identity theft and it has become the fastest-growing crime in Canada and the U.S.
How does identity theft occur?
Here are just a few examples of how identity theft is committed:
Theft of payment cards and documents: Identity thieves often steal purses or wallets, and steal newly issued cards or credit card applications from your mailbox. Some, known as “dumpster divers”, will even rummage through trash to pick out bank and credit card statements. Letters that contain “pre-approved credit-card” offers, if not shredded or destroyed, can be sent to the recipient (i.e. you), but at a new address of the identity thief’s choosing. accessing large databases containing personal information from private companies and government agencies.
E-Mail and Website “Spoofing:” Many criminals who want to obtain personal data from people online use a technique known as “spoofing” which is the creation of e-mails and websites that appear to belong to legitimate businesses. Their sole purpose is to obtain the consumers’ personal data to engage in various fraud schemes.
“Shoulder Surfing:” Some identity thieves engage in “shoulder surfing” which involves looking over your shoulder or from a nearby location as you enter your Personal Identification Number (PIN) at an ATM machine or point of sale debit machines.
“Skimming:” Thieves “skim” or “swipe” customer credit cards at restaurants or gas stations, using an electronic device known as a skimmer. The skimmer records the personal information data from the magnetic stripes on the cards and identity thieves then transfer that data onto fraudulently made credit cards.
Theft from Company or Government Databases: Law enforcement agencies in both Canada and the United States have noticed a significant increase of identity thieves accessing large databases containing personal information from private companies and government agencies.
Order a copy of your credit report from the major credit reporting agencies at least once every year. Check with the credit bureaus to see whether there is a charge for this service. Make sure your credit report is accurate and includes only those activities that you have authorized.
If You Are A Victim Of Identity Theft……….
• Report the crime to the police immediately. Ask for a copy of the police report so that you can provide proof of the theft to the organizations that you will have to contact later.
• Take steps to undo the damage. Avoid credit repair companies. There is usually nothing they can do and some have been known to propose a solution such as establishing credit under a new identity which is itself fraudulent.
• Document the steps you take and the expenses you incur to clear your name and reestablish your credit.
• Cancel your credit cards and get new ones issued. Ask the creditors about accounts tampered with or opened fraudulently in your name.
• Have your credit report documented to reflect the identity theft. Do a follow-up check three months after to ensure that someone has not tried to use your identity again.
• Close your bank accounts and open new ones. Insist on password-only access to them.
• Get a new bank machine and telephone calling cards, with new passwords or personal identification numbers.
In the case of passport theft, advise the Passport Office.
• Contact Canada Post if you suspect that someone is diverting your mail.
• Advise your telephone, cable and utility companies that someone using your name could try to open new accounts fraudulently.
• Get a new drivers license.
• Sign all credit cards as soon as you receive them and never lend them to anyone.
• Cancel and destroy credit cards you do not use and keep a list of the ones you use regularly.
• Carry only the identification information and credit cards that you actually need. Do not carry your social insurance card; leave it in a secure place. This applies also to your passport unless you need it for travelling.
• 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 each of your monthly credit card statements. Immediately report lost or stolen credit cards and any discrepancies in your monthly statements to the issuing credit card company.
• Shred or destroy paperwork you no longer need, such as bank machine receipts, receipts from electronic and credit card purchases, insurance forms, utility bills and any document that contains personal and/or financial information. Shred or destroy pre-approved credit card applications you do not want before putting them in the trash.
• Secure personal information in your home or office so that it is not readily accessible to others who may have access to the premises.
• 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, but do not keep a written 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. Check with the credit bureaus to see whether there is a charge for this service. Make sure your credit report is accurate and includes only those activities that you have authorized.