To steal your identity, thieves start by taking possession of your personal data. Then, they can use it to make purchases, apply for personal loans and receive government benefits in your name! Because the deception can go on for weeks or even months before you realize it, the resulting damage can sometimes be extensive. It is therefore essential to protect your personal information.
Top 10 Identity Theft
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How identity theft occurs
When it comes to stealing your identity, thieves can be very clever. For example, they can:
- steal your personal effects, such as your wallet, purse or mail.
- sift through your garbage looking for personal information.
- do extensive research online by using your name and what little information they have about you.
- change your address without your knowledge in order to get your statements. With the invoices for these fraudulent purchases being sent to another address, you won’t know that debts are accumulating in your name until collection agencies come knocking.
- pose as your landlord or employer to manipulate various organizations into sharing your financial data.
- look over your shoulder when you enter your PIN at the ATM or point-of-sale terminal.
- swipe your credit or debit card through a skimmer that records personal data.
- create email messages and web pages to trick you into submitting personal information and financial data.
- steal from the company or government databases.
- offer you money to temporarily use your identity. By accepting, not only do you risk losing big, you are committing an illegal act.
How to minimize the risk
Put the following guidelines into practice:
- Shred papers with personal information before disposing of them.
- Memorize your PIN and passwords to reduce the risk of thieves finding this information in your personal belongings.
- Do not give personal information over the phone, by mail or online unless you are the one who contacted the person or organization. Nobody not even a financial institution, police officer or merchant—is authorized to ask for your PIN or password to access your account online.
- Sign your credit cards as soon as you receive them, never lend them and destroy those you do not use.
- As much as possible, avoid losing sight of your card. The point-of-sale terminal should be visible on the counter near the cash register.
- Shield the keypad during use.
- Only carry credit cards and ID you actually need.
- Contact your creditors and utility companies if your bills don’t arrive on time or if the amount seems unusual.
- Check monthly statements and report discrepancies to the issuing company or financial institution.
If you are a victim of identity theft
Contact Canada’s main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion) and your financial institution as soon as you find out. If the thieves make purchases in your name, it will affect your credit rating and ability to get a loan.
Amidst home pages and bookmarks, emails and download links, threats are lurking. Here are 6 ways to protect your personal information against identity theft and fraud while navigating the Internet.
1. Be Selfish:
Identity theft protection is about you. Make it more difficult for an identity thief by being extremely stringent when giving out any personal information. Take your selfishness to the extreme, even when dealing with companies that you trust. Answer common security questions, such as “what is your mother’s maiden name?” with a false answer.
2. Be Suspicious:
Not sure if that website you’re visiting is secure? Not sure if the person on the phone is legitimately calling from Microsoft to help you with your computer? Embrace your suspicion. Hang up. Navigate away from that website. Listen to your gut and remember that you can never be too suspicious when it comes to identity theft.
3. Be Sneaky:
After hacking into your email account, a hacker can discover an alarming amount of your personal information, as well as access to your contacts. Your email address is now considered a piece of Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and as such must be protected. But what happens when you need to use an email address to gain access to a website or to sign up for a newsletter? Outsmart fraudsters by creating an email address to be used solely for these purposes, while saving your personal address for personal matters.
4. Be Secretive:
Going on vacation, but don’t want to make the news public? Announcing that you are going to be out of your house, out of the country and away from work is like leaving the door to your identity wide open. Save all your excitement and share it with photos to back it up when you return and you are back on full duty to guard the front door of your life.
5. Be Shrewd:
Don’t forget that you already have an arsenal at your disposal in the battle against identity theft. One of our favorites is credit bureau monitoring. Information on the state of your own house of credit – who is looking at your file, what financial institutions are listed on your file, and even what your address and phone number are with the bureau, are smart pieces of information to have. Do you really want to find out that a fraudster knows more about your credit history than you?
6. Be Subversive:
Do you consider yourself a rebellious person? Do you speak up when others are being mistreated? Now is the time to speak up and rebel against the theft and fraud that is costing Canadians time, money and most of all, our good names. We are the side that has the largest numbers so we should be the loudest, the most present, and the strongest. Let’s prove that we are not just alarmed at the headlines, and the numbers, that we are angry and we’re not going to take it anymore. Sharing this article is a start!