Dealing with Identity Theft

Identity theft is a growing problem in Canada. It can occur over the phone, online, or via postal mail. Criminals can use your personal information to commit fraud or theft by accessing your bank account, opening a new bank account, or applying for credit in your name.

Potential thieves will look for personal information like your full name, birthday, social insurance number, address, credit card or bank account information, or personal identification numbers.

What to do if you’re a victim

If you’re a victim of identity theft, there are many steps you’ll need to take to minimize damage and prevent any further theft or fraud from occurring. Here’s what you should do:

  • Contact all of your financial institutions to cancel your cards and have them reissued. You might be liable for losses if you don’t report a stolen or lost card right away.
  • Call your local police force to file a report.
  • Get in touch with both of the credit reporting agencies (TransUnion and Equifax) and ask them to place a fraud alert on your file.
  • Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.
  • Replace all of your identification cards such as your driver’s license, health card, and social insurance number.
  • If you have any missing mail, get in touch with Canada Post at 1-800-267-1177.
  • Contact every organization that provided the identity thief with credit, money, information, or services in your name. Make sure they close and cancel all the affected or fraudulent accounts as well as conduct an investigation.

How to prevent identity theft

Identity theft can happen in a number of ways, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re not a victim:

  • Install anti-virus software on your computer and make sure it’s up to date. Also, use software that blocks spyware and make sure you have a firewall.
  • Don’t send confidential financial information over email or via a text message to anyone.
  • When doing online banking or when you buy something online, make sure the website is secure. A secure website’s web address will begin with “https://” and there will be an icon—either a lock in a locked position or a key—in the browser window.
  • Don’t click on a link to an email that appears to come from your financial institution asking you to confirm, update, or validate account information. Although there will often be a request to respond urgently, you should instead go to the company’s website directly or call the institution to verify the information over the phone.
  • If you’re throwing out an old computer, delete the hard drive using special software. Alternatively, you can remove the drive and destroy it.
  • Don’t share any personal information—your date of birth, your full name (including your middle name), your phone number, social insurance number, or address—on social media sites.
  • Before sharing photos online, remove geotags so people won’t be able to determine where you work or live.
  • Don’t carry your social insurance number or birth certificate with you. Make sure you keep them in a secure place.
  • Use a password or PIN that doesn’t include your phone number, birthday, social insurance number, or name.
  • Go over your banking and credit card statements when you receive them. If you find any errors or charges you didn’t make, contact your financial institution immediately.
  • If you receive your statements through the mail and they don’t arrive, contact your financial institution and Canada Post.
  • If you lose your credit/debit cards or they’re stolen, let each financial institution know.
  • Get a copy of your credit report every year to ensure the information is correct. If there’s anything suspicious, contact the credit reporting agencies as soon as possible.