Compiled by South Vancouver Community Policing Centre
What is Identity Theft and Identity Fraud?
Identity theft refers to the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes. It is illegal to possess another person’s identity information for criminal purposes.
Identity fraud is the actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person (living or dead) in connection with various frauds (including for example personating another person and the misuse of debit card or credit card data).
How does Identity Theft and Identity Fraud Happen?
Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes.
Technology, mainly the Internet, facilitates more elaborate schemes, such as skimming, phishing, and hacking as criminals gather profiles of potential victims. Computer spywares and viruses, designed to help thieves acquire personal information, are an emerging trend.
The crime will leave the victims of identity theft or fraud with experience financial loss and difficulty obtaining credit or restoring their “good name”.
Criminals can use your stolen or reproduced personal or financial information to:
- access your bank accounts
- open new bank accounts
- transfer bank balances
- apply for loans, credit cards and other goods and services
- make purchases
- hide their criminal activities
- obtain passports or receive government benefits
Using identity theft to facilitate organized criminal and terrorist activities also appears to be a growing trend.
What Can You Do to Prevent from being Victimized?
Prevention is the best way to deal with this crime:
Identity theft can occur over the Internet or telephone, or via fax or regular mail. Therefore, be particularly wary of unsolicited e-mails, telephone calls or mail attempting to extract personal or financial information from you.
- Be aware of “get rich quick” promotions, including work-at home schemes or multi-level marketing plans that suggest they require little effort or investment. Always remember, if the offer is too good to be true, there is a high chance of it being a scam.
- Ask yourself if you really need all of the identity documents you carry in your wallet or purse. Remove any you don’t need and keep them in a secure place instead.
- Periodically check your credit reports, bank and credit card statements and report any irregularities promptly to the relevant financial institution and to the credit bureaus.
- During transactions, it’s safer to swipe your cards yourself than it is to allow a cashier to do it for you. If you must hand over your card, never lose sight of it.
- Always shield your personal identification number when using an ATM or a PIN pad.
- Memorize all personal identification numbers for payment cards and telephone calling cards. Never write them on the cards.
- Familiarize yourself with billing cycles for your credit and debit cards.
- Trash bins are a goldmine for identity thieves. Make sure you shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage.
- When you change your address, make sure you notify the post office and all relevant financial institutions (your bank and credit card companies).
- Protect your Social Insurance Number (SIN). Keep the SIN card in a secure place and do not carry around. Provide your SIN if you know that you are legally required to do so.
What Should You Do if You are Victimized?
Some Signs of Problem
- 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.
If you suspect that your personal information has been hijacked and misappropriated to commit fraud or theft, take action immediately and keep a record of your conversations and correspondence. The following basic actions are appropriate in almost every case.
- Start a log of dates, person(s) that you spoke with and exactly what they said.
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the two major credit bureaus, Equifax (1-866-828-5961) and Trans Union (1-800-663-9980) and request that a “Fraud Alert” be placed in your files. At the same time order copies of your credit reports.
- Contact the fraud department of creditors for any accounts that have been opened or tampered with fraudulently. This may include credit card companies, phone companies, banks and other lenders.
- If you suspect that someone has re-routed your mail, notify Canada Post. Notify your service provider (telephone, cell phone, electricity, gas, water, etc.) of the identity fraud. Ask that any new request for service first be confirmed with you.
- File a report with your local Police or the Police in the community where the identity theft took place.
- Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC). CAFC is currently central sourcing all pertinent information on Identity Theft to identity trends and patterns, information is also used to assist law enforcement agencies in possible investigations.
Referenced Websites: Please visit the following websites for further information.