What is Identity Theft and How Would it Affect Me?

By Randall Orser | Personal Finances

Identity theft occurs when your personal information is stolen by someone with criminal intent and it is a serious issue in Canada.   It can lead to months of financial and legal struggles and even severe financial loss.  Criminals try to acquire any of the following personal information: 

  •  Full name
  • Social Insurance Number
  • Driver’s license
  • Credit card and banking information
  • Home Address

With a combination of this information they can apply for credit in your name, gain access to your banking and credit card accounts and potentially rack up a large amount of debt in your name.  As we work harder to secure our personal information, criminals also work harder to find newer ways to access it.

Here are some warning signs that your personal information may have been compromised:

  • A creditor that you already have or a new creditor contacts you to say that they have received an application from you
  • A bank or credit card company lets you know that you have been approved or rejected for a loan or product that you did not apply for
  • You stop getting bank statements or important banking information in the mail
  • You notice strange purchases on your credit card bills
  • A debt collector calls you about a debt that is not yours

How to Avoid Identity Theft:

  • Don’t carry around personal information such as your Social Insurance Card, passport, or birth certificate unless you absolutely need it
  • Always inform your bank and any creditors that you have changed your address so that any mail containing personal information reaches you
  • Immediately inform your bank or credit card company if you lose or misplace a card, and check with them if you do not receive a new card before the old one has expired
  • Do not give anyone access to your credit cards or bank account
  • Always take your ATM receipt or say no when asked if you would like one
  • Never leave your purse or wallet alone
  • If you close a chequing account dispose of all paperwork including cheques
  • Always review your bank and credit card statements and make sure there are no strange charges
  • Limit the number of credit card accounts that you have so that you can keep track of them all
  • Never give out any personal information over the phone unless you can verify the caller is who they say they are
  • Do not use your SIN as an identifier for bank or credit card accounts
  • Always check utility and other bills to make sure that they are yours
  • Always memorize your pin, and make sure no one is looking when you are use it
  • Never use numbers with meaning such as your date of birth
  • Always tear up or shred bills before disposing of them
  • Never apply for credit on applications that you receive in the mail, especially if it asks for your SIN
  • Get in the habit of requesting your credit report once a year so that you can catch any unauthorized credit accounts opened in your name

For more ways to protect your identity visit:               http://www.consumerhandbook.ca/en/topics/consumer-protection/identity-theft

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About the Author

President/CEO Number Crunchers® Accounting Inc. Learn how to just say stuff it to this bookkeeping thing with our 'Just Say: "Stuff It" To Bookkeeping program.