What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone else gains access to your personal information and uses it to assume your identity. They do this to reap numerous benefits, usually financial. With enough of your personal information, they can apply for credit cards, purchase expensive items, and commit further actions which can cause your credit rating to rapidly decline.
Being a victim of identity theft can hold severe consequences. Many victims do not find out that their identity has been stolen for an extended period of time. When they do realize, they may be left paying off large amounts of debt. In addition, the attempt to clear a poor credit record can be quite tedious. Even after extensive measures have been taken, the issue can remain an on-going problem. Some companies may continue to have incorrect records, making it extremely difficult for the victim when applying for a loan.
Here are some preventative measures to protect yourself from identity theft and its impact:
- Ask questions when someone claims that they need your personal information and never give it out unless you know exactly who you are dealing with. If you are hesitant, find out why they require this information and what it will be used for.
- Shield your PIN number whenever you are required to enter it.
- Cancel accounts immediately if any cards have been lost or stolen.
- Monitor your billing cycle regularly to make sure no bills have been redirected.
- Collect your mail as soon as possible and notify your local post office if you are going out of town. By doing this, they can hold it for you until you return.
- Install security software on your computer and update it regularly.
- Change your internet passwords often and make them difficult to guess.
- Shred receipts or any documents contacting account information.
- Access a credit report at least once a year to check for any unusual activity.
- Do not carry your social insurance card in your wallet.
If you are an unfortunate victim of identity theft, there are some important steps to take to reduce its negative impact:
- Report it immediately to your local police station, and ask for a copy of the police report, in the event that others may still have incorrect records.
- Report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501).
- Make sure to cancel any false accounts that were opened or tampered with by the ID theft.
- Document all of your current conversations and phone calls regarding the situation for future reference.