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Do you know how to protect yourself from identity theft?

March is National Fraud Prevention month in Canada but anytime is a great time to understand what identity theft is and how you can help make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Hello. My name is Sam…John…Susan…David…

Identity theft occurs when someone gains access to your personal information for the purposes of financial gain. This can be anything from bank account information to your driver’s license number. Any piece of identification that allows some else to pretend to be you can be used to steal your identity and your money.

Once a thief has your personal information they can use it in a lot of ways including gaining access to:

  • Your computer and email accounts
  • Your bank accounts
  • Your credit cards

Which allows the thief to:

  • Open new bank accounts in your name
  • Transfer money out of your bank account
  • Apply for loans and credit cards
  • Make purchases
  • Obtain passports or receive government benefits

In 2014 alone, over 20,000 Canadians were the victims of identity theft. This resulted in a total loss of over $10 million*(1).

Identity thieves can strike at any time and can target anyone using the Internet, telephone, fax or regular mail. Always be extra cautious when you receive unsolicited e-mails, telephone calls or mail that asks for personal or financial information from you.

Tips to prevent identity theft

Change is good:

One of the best and easiest ways to protect your privacy is to change passwords and PINs regularly and never use the same password or PIN for different accounts.

Take it out of the trash:

Your garbage says a lot about you and if you throw away credit card bills, banks statement or other personal information, it can be a gold mine for identity thieves. Shred all personal information before putting in the trash.

No…it’s not free:

If your credit card bills don’t arrive in the mail, it doesn’t mean you just won some sort of lottery and all your purchases are free. Identity thieves often steal these items in order to get your credit card information and start making purchases you did not authorize.

We already know that!:

Your bank and credit card company will never call you, unsolicited, and ask for you for your account numbers. They already have that information! And they will never ask for personal information like your password. If you call them, they may ask for this information and that’s OK because they want to ensure you are who you say you are.

If it’s too good to be true…:

It’s a safe bet that you will never win a contest you didn’t enter and you can’t win a lottery you didn’t purchase a ticket for. Identity thieves will often call claiming you won something and all you have to do is pay the taxes, or some sort of fee, with your credit card. Never give out your credit card information to anyone who calls or emails you unless you specifically requested that you be contacted.

Know the warning signs

Identity thieves are always coming up with new and inventive ways to steal your identity but you can make it harder on them by watching for these signs indicating that someone may be trying to impersonate you†(2):

  • A creditor informs you that an application for credit was received with your name and address, which you did not apply for.
  • Telephone calls or letters state that you have been approved or denied by a creditor that you never applied to.
  • You receive credit card statements or other bills in your name, which you did not apply for.
  • You no longer receive credit card statements or you notice that not all of your mail is delivered.
  • A collection agency informs you they are collecting for a defaulted account established with your identity and you never opened the account

When it comes to protecting your identity, you can never be too skeptical or too cautious.