Identity theft, or the theft of personal information, can be the starting point to a range of crimes — from financial fraud and forgery to abuse of government programs. The thief only needs a small amount of information, as little as your name and birthdate, to start building their new identity and committing fraud. That is why combating identity theft requires the cooperation and efforts of business, law enforcement, individual consumers and government.
Banks have highly sophisticated security systems and experts in place to protect customers’ personal and financial information and to protect them from being the victims of financial fraud. They also work closely with law enforcement to help educate consumers about steps they can take to minimize the risk of becoming a victim. Consumers also have a role to play in protecting themselves, however, and must remain vigilant.
Signs of identity theft
You could be a victim of identity theft if:
- You are contacted by a creditor because an application for credit that you did not apply for was received in your name and with your address.
- You receive a phone call or letter informing you that you have been denied or approved by a creditor that you never applied to.
- You receive credit card statements or other bills with your information that you never applied to.
- You no longer receive your credit card statements or any of your mail.
- You are contacted by a collection agency informing you that they are collecting for a defaulted account established with your identity that you never opened.
What to do if you are a victim
If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, here are some important actions to take:
- Contact your bank or credit card issuer right away – the bank will take the appropriate steps to help prevent fraud in your accounts. These steps could include cancelling and reissuing credit or debit cards, investigating and reversing fraudulent transactions and providing further advice to customers.
- Contact local police – contact your local police force and file a report about the fraud.
- Contact Canada’s credit reporting agencies – if you suspect that you may have been a victim of identity theft, contact both of Canada’s credit reporting agencies, Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada, and obtain a copy of your credit report. If there are creditors on the report that you have not done business with, contact those organizations and let them know you have been the victim of identity theft.
- Consider a fraud alert for your credit files – Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada can also put a fraud alert put on your credit files. With this fraud alert, creditors that have viewed your credit report will have to contact you before extending credit. This can help prevent someone else from taking out a loan or credit card in your name.
- Contact other organizations as necessary – other organizations and government agencies may also need to know if your personal information has been stolen and used to commit fraud. For example, you should contact government agencies such as Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) if someone has used your Social Insurance Number to apply for government services.
Did you know?
The CBA offers a free fraud prevention seminar for seniors as part of its Your Money Seniors financial literacy seminar program.
Find out more and request a seminar for your seniors’ group at www.yourmoney.cba.ca/seniors.