Identity theft is a serious crime and it’s growing. In the United States, for example, statistics compiled by specialized firms show that in 2017, there were at least 16.7 million victims of this type of crime. Total losses came to $16.8 billion.1
A real scourge, identity fraud is a serious problem and more common than we might think.
1Source: Insurance Information Institute
For thieves, your personal information is worth gold. In their hands, your name, your social insurance number or your driver’s licence open the door to all sorts of fraudulent activities:
- Opening new bank accounts
- Obtaining lines of credit (in your name), using the funds and running up considerable debt
- Using your name for legal matters or for illegal activities, which could result in a criminal record in your name
- Obtaining a passport or receiving government benefits without your knowledge
Criminals can even go so far as to pose as your landlord, your bank or your employer in dealing with different organizations.
Theft techniques are very diverse. There are all sorts of ways to misappropriate your data:
- Steal your personal property: your wallet, your purse or your mail
- Rummage through your trash cans or your recycling bin to get hold of your bills, bank statements and other confidential documents
- Do Internet searches to find information on you, on your movements, your hobbies, your trips, etc.
- Change your address without your knowledge to redirect your mail
- Try to obtain your personal identification number (PIN) at the ATM or when you make a purchase
- Steal the personal information on the magnetic strip of your credit or debit card or simply clone your card
- Create email addresses and websites that look legitimate in order to scam you (phishing)
- Hack your computer or install malware (cyberattacks)
Here are some telling signs. You receive:
- Letters, phone calls or emails from creditors saying they have approved or refused credit card applications which you never made
- Letters, phone calls or emails from collection agencies for unpaid bills for accounts which you never opened
- Card statements or other bills for purchases which you never made
Don’t waste time. Notify the different authorities concerned immediately!
Always trust your instincts and never hesitate to ask questions if a situation seems suspicious to you.
To reduce the risk of theft :
Hide your keys!
Your passwords and your PINs are the keys to the safe.
- Try to memorize your PINs instead of writing them down.
- Use different passwords that are difficult to guess.
- Don’t share your passwords! No one, not even a financial institution, is authorized to ask you for your PIN or your password to access your online banking account.
Keep your eye on your cards and your devices!
- Carry only indispensable identity documents in your wallet.
- Never leave your devices in your car.
- Sign your credit cards as soon as you receive them. Don’t lend them and destroy the ones that you no longer use (shred).
- Always keep your card in sight and shield the keypad during a transaction.
- Make your online transactions on secure sites: the address should begin with “https” and be preceded by a lock icon.
Yes, you have the power to…
- Never click on a hypertext link, an email attachment, a photo or an advertising image from an unknown source.
- Don’t be too transparent on social media: stay discreet!
- Install an antivirus program and a spam filter and download the recommended updates.
- Use the encryption functions for confidential documents.
Recycle or destroy?
Before disposing or recycling, be sure to…
- Shred all papers, cards or other documents that contain personal information.
- Get rid of a device only after removing all your data (memory card), or use software that will permanently delete all the files it contains.