Identity theft occurs when someone appropriates some of your personal information without your knowledge and uses it to commit fraud. For example, your name and social insurance number are used to fraudulently open a credit card account.
How Identity Theft Occurs:
Identity thieves can obtain your personal information in the following ways:
- Steal your mail, including credit card and bank statements and pre-approved credit offers.
- Steal wallets and purses.
- "Dumpster Diving" - rummaging through trash for personal data contained on invoices, receipts, statements, etc.
- Obtain personal information that you have shared on the Internet.
- Obtain your credit report by posing as someone who has a legal right to it, such as an employer.
- Divert your mail to a different address.
- Obtain personal information from within your home.
- Obtain personal information from inside sources at employers, banks, or credit-granting institutions.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft:
- Download Printable Identity Theft Poster
- Protect your mail from theft.
- Outgoing mail should be deposited at secure locations.
- Delivered mail should be promptly retrieved from your mailbox.
- Have your mail held at the post office or picked up daily by neighbours while you are away on vacation.
- Shred or tear up bills, credit card receipts, pre-approved credit applications, bank statements, etc. prior to disposing of them in the garbage to thwart "dumpster diving" for personal information contained on these documents.
- Have passwords put on your phone, bank and credit accounts. Avoid using passwords that may be linked to your personal information, such as your date of birth or phone number.
- Keep track of when your monthly bills usually arrive. If your bills do not arrive on time, contact the issuing company. A missing credit card bill may indicate that the account has been taken over and diverted to a different address.
- Do not give out personal information over the telephone, on the Internet or through the mail. This should only be done if you have initiated the contact or you are familiar with who is requesting the information and why.
- Keep personal information in a safe place in your home to prevent access by visitors, service-people, roommates, etc.
- Give out your social insurance number (SIN) only when absolutely necessary. Your SIN is a key piece of information required to obtain credit in your name. Employers will require your SIN, as will credit-granting institutions wishing to do a credit check. If other businesses or organizations ask for your SIN, ask why they need it and be cautious about providing it.
- Do not carry your SIN card with you. Memorize the number and keep the card in a secure place. On an annual basis, order a copy of your credit report from one of the credit bureaus. Examine it closely to ensure that only the credit-related activities that you have authorized are included.
Information on how to check your credit report can be obtained by contacting:
• Equifax Canada 1-800-465-7166
• Trans Union Canada 1-800-663-9980
What to do if you are a victim of identity theft:
Immediately contact the credit-granting institution involved, report the fraudulent activity and have the account frozen/closed. Follow up the phone call with a letter notifying the company of the identity theft. Download sample identity theft statement.
Contact the Fraud Victim Assistance section of one of the credit bureaus to report the fraudulent activity and have your credit file flagged. This will result in you being contacted before any new credit accounts are opened in your name or any changes are made to your existing accounts. This may prevent the suspect from opening additional accounts in your name. The Fraud Victim Assistance Departments of Equifax Canada and Trans Union Canada can be reached at the phone numbers shown above.
Order a copy of your credit report at the time you are submitting your fraud report to the credit bureau. Examining your credit report will enable you to identify any other fraudulent accounts that have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes that have been made to existing accounts.
Residents of the Region of Waterloo who have been victimized in one of these scams should contact the Waterloo Regional Police Service to file a report. Please report by phone by calling (519) 653-7700 in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge. All other areas may call (519) 570-3000.
You should also file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which is operated by the Competition Bureau, RCMP and OPP. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre tracks trends in fraud nation wide and is the national call centre for mass marketing fraud and identity theft.