Identity Theft

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a form of fraud and is a term often used to describe the impersonation of another person, typically for the purpose of financial gain. Personal information is obtained or stolen from the victim, and used to impersonate that person. Such information can include a victim's Social Insurance Number, credit card number, bank account, and other records. It may also include such personal data as a person's name, address, telephone number, mother’s maiden name, and so forth.

Identity theft is often a means to performing other crimes. Once a criminal has enough information about you, he or she can make false loan applications, fraudulently apply for credit cards, steal money from your account, or misrepresent himself to others using your name and credentials. If the criminal has the falsely obtained credit cards, bank statements, or other documentation sent to an address that doesn't belong to the victim, then the victim may be unaware that anything is wrong. Without knowing, a criminal could be driving them into debt, stealing their assets, and damaging their reputation and credit rating.

Every year, thousands of people are victims of identity theft. The offence may also occur in other provinces or countries, so it can be very difficult tracking and catching such criminals.

Protect Yourself

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of Identity Theft is to take steps to protect yourself.  Use these tips:

Obtain a credit report on yourself. Credit bureaus can provide you with a credit report that will show your current credit rating and information. Many victims don't realize their identity has been stolen until after a debt has been put in the credit bureau or legal action is taken against them. You should contact the credit bureau at least once a year, and find what information they have dealing with you. This will alert you of any frauds committed under your name.

Avoid publishing personal data about yourself. If making an announcement in the paper, keep the details about yourself to a minimum. There is no need to give more information than necessary.

Obtain and use a shredding machine. Shredding documents will prevent criminals from being able to view any personal data or financial information. Any offers (such as pre-approved credit card applications or memberships (to music/video/dvd clubs), etc.) should also be shredded.

Keep all credit card receipts, and compare them to your monthly credit statement. This will enable you to see if unauthorized purchases have been made. Once you've compared them, keep or shred the receipts and your monthly credit card bill.

Report lost or stolen I.D., cheques, bank cards, and credit cards immediately. The card company can cancel the credit card number, preventing a criminal from using your card. Banks can also void the use of your bank card, and prevent missing cheques from being honoured. If other forms of identification (such as SIN cards or driver's licences) are stolen or lost, these too need to be reported to prevent them from being used by someone other than you.

Avoid giving personal and financial information to telemarketers. Make sure you know who you're dealing with! Anyone can call and say they're with the government, bank, or a reputable company. If they can't provide a number to call them back, or prove they're actually with a company, hang up the phone.

Don't give information about yourself on the Internet. When using chat programs and other Internet applications, don't include anything more than the minimum amount of data needed to use the program. Never provide your address, telephone number, occupation, or other details.

Avoid giving credit card numbers to e-commerce sites.

Be careful of SPAM (unsolicited mail) and other unsolicited contact.

If you're going to be travelling, have your mail held at the post office or have a friend, neighbour, or family member collect it. If the mail isn't in a place where a criminal can reach it, then they won't be able to use it against you.
What to Do If You’re a Victim

If you're a victim of Identity Theft, you need to take action to protect yourself and catch the person. The following steps should be taken as soon as possible:

> Contact your local police agency immediately. Without taking action to stop the person, the fraud may (and probably will) continue.
> Contact financial institutions, credit card companies, and other places where false applications have been made, and get copies of these applications.
> Notify your bank, credit card companies, and other institutions where you have accounts and inform them of the problem.
> Notify credit bureaus and they can put a watch on your account.


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