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Minimizing your risk of identity theft

Did you know that identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada?

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.

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 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.

Find out more about the role of the credit bureau.

See Identity restoration kit.

Tools and tips

Use your credit cards securely

Credit: 10 tips from a financial planner

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Your credit file helps credit grantors determine your solvency. That's why the information it contains should always be up to date and correct.

Read tip - Understanding your credit file

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