Every year thousands of Canadians lose their good name to identity theft, an increasingly common financial crime that makes a victim’s life miserable for months, even years as they try to reclaim their identity and get back to normal.
Losing Your Identity
Theft of a wallet or purse is not the only way identity thieves get your personal information.
Debit cards and credit cards hold a wealth of encoded data that gives remote access to an account. Doctored ATM machines and phony swipe devices give thieves all they need to reproduce a victim’s card and PIN number and use it as if it were the original.
Phony telephone or e-mail marketing ploys can be used to get personal information from the unwary.
The paper trail we all create in our lives is an even bigger source of personal information for thieves.
What to Do
A victim must contact many people quickly. Keep records of who you talk with and what was said. Followup the phone calls in writing. Also, keep a record of your time and expenses for insurance purposes.
File a police report. You will need the report file number when you are dealing with the affected organizations and creditors.
Alert Phonebusters, a police-run anti-fraud call centre (www.phonebusters.com).
Contact a credit bureau: Equifax (www.equifax.ca) or Trans Union Canada www.tuc.ca). They can advise you if your credit report should be flagged with a fraud alert.
Contact all your financial institutions to cancel credit cards and bank accounts and open new accounts with different PIN and identification passwords. Check credit card and banking agreements to find out if you’re protected from fraud.
Alert all other creditors that were providing the thief with unauthorized credit. As far as they are concerned you are still the person who owes them money. They will need proof that the theft took place.
A lost or compromised driver’s license, Social Insurance Card, birth certificate or passport, means notifying those government departments to cancel the old and re-issue new ones.
What can you do to potentially reduce the risk?
Don’t give personal information to strangers.
Never talk to strangers about financial or personal matters on the phone.
Protect your PINs.
Review you financial statements, monthly bills and other records for odd charges or unusual transactions.
Only shop on secure websites: Do not enter any financial information if you see a broken-key or open padlock symbol on your Internet browser.
Delete and do not open attachments from unfamiliar e-mail messages. They could contain a virus designed to search your computer for personal information.
Destroy all unsolicited credit cards.
Shred all financial documents that link your name and address with account numbers and your financial institution.
In November 2007, the federal government tabled legislation to beef up Canada’s existing identity fraud law. The proposed legislation would amend the Criminal Code to create new criminal offences directly targeting aspects of the identity theft problem, which include obtaining or possessing identity information with intent to use it to commit certain crimes.
Jim Grant, CFP (Certified Financial Planner) is a Financial Advisor with Raymond James Ltd (RJL). The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of RJL. This article is for information only. Securities are offered through Raymond James Ltd., member CIPF. Financial planning and insurance are offered through Raymond James Financial Planning Ltd., which is not a member CIPF. For more information feel free to call Jim at 250-594-1100, or email at email@example.com. and/or visit www.jimgrant.ca.