Identity Theft

Identity theft: How you can reduce the risk

According to Public Safety Canada, “identity theft refers to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.�?

Here are some tips that they offer to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft:

• Sign all credit cards when 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 out of country.

 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, 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.

Before you share such information, ensure that the organization is legitimate by checking its website to see if it has posted any fraud or scam alert when its name has been used improperly, or by calling its customer service number listed on your account statement or in the phone book.

• Password-protect your credit card, bank, and phone accounts, but do not keep a written record of your PIN number, social insurance or social security number, or computer passwords 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.