Cyber criminals only need a small amount of your personal information to impersonate you online and commit financial crimes. With basic information like your birth date, social insurance number and your name as a starting point, criminals can impersonate you to commit financial fraud.
Five signs you might be a victim of identity theft:
- You receive a phone call or letter informing you that you have been denied or approved for a loan or credit card that you didn’t apply for.
- You suddenly stop receiving your credit card statements or other mail.
- You are contacted by a collection agency informing you that they are collecting for a defaulted account in your name that you never opened.
- You see charges you didn’t make on your banking statement.
- You are unable to login to your accounts or to reset your email or banking passwords.
What banks are doing to protect customers
Banks have highly sophisticated security systems and experts in place to protect customers’ information and to protect them from being the victims of financial fraud. Banks’ work to protect consumers is an ongoing, vigilant effort. As well, banks work closely with law enforcement and help educate consumers about steps they can take to minimize the risk of becoming a victim.
Tips on how to protect your personal information
- Avoid oversharing - Be careful what personal data you share online. Don’t provide your birthdate, PIN or any personal or financial information unless you have initiated the contact or know with whom you’re dealing since some social media accounts are fraudulent. Secure your social media and check your privacy settings on social media sites to ensure you know how your information could be shared. And be sure to only accept requests from individuals you know and review your contacts regularly to ensure all your contacts are relevant.
- Be unique - Choosing a unique password or passphrase for your sensitive online accounts like your main email account and your financial accounts is important since a security breach at one site means your password could be handed to criminals who may try to use it at other sites.
- Enable extra security - Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) for your online accounts when available.
- 2FA and MFA are authentication methods that validate your identity using more than one validation method - providing an extra layer of security.
- An example of 2FA is when you are required to enter a password you have set along with a secondary piece of information that has been provided to you via text message. An example of MFA is when you are required to provide more than two pieces of information to access your account, such as a debit card, password and your fingerprint.
- This Government of Canada’s Get Cyber Safe blog’s video explains multifactor authentication and common types you might see.
- Shred and destroy - An identity thief will pick through your garbage or recycling bins. Shred or destroy all receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements and any financial documents before putting them in the garbage or recycling.
What to do if you are a victim of identity theft
- Contact your bank right away – Your bank will take the appropriate steps to help prevent fraud. These steps could include cancelling and reissuing credit or debit cards, investigating and reversing fraudulent transactions and providing further advice.
- 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 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. If you’re bank offers a free credit check feature for your account, take advantage of the option to check if any new accounts have been opened 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 the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) if someone has used your Social Insurance Number to apply for government services.