Identifying Identity Theft

By now, most of us have received a phoney phone call stating that we owe a lot of money to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and if we don’t pay, they claim they’ll send us to jail. This is just one of many attempts that criminals use to extort money and your personal information in hopes of stealing your identity. Some common ways that con-artists try to get your personal information from you are:

  • Phishing attempts
  • Job scams
  • Loan scams
  • Email viruses

As more and more people are recognizing and ignoring these obviously fraudulent attempts, the scam artists are getting more aggressive and threatening in their requests in hopes of scaring you into giving away personal information. There are a number of ways you can protect yourself from these scams:

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages.
  • Check your credit score periodically.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit card statements.
  • Protect your credit card pin when making a purchase.
  • Do not write down your PIN numbers, memorize them instead.
  • Shred all personal banking documents before throwing them out.
  • Notify your bank and other financial institutions if you move.

If these criminals are successful, they will have stolen your identity – a strange concept since you still have your identification and you’re obviously still you. So, what does all this mean? When someone steals your identity, they can do a number of things that you may or may not notice right away:

  • By using phishing schemes or computer viruses, they can access your computer and all the accounts you have stored on it.
  • If they get your Social Insurance Number or banking information, they can access your bank account or open new accounts and credit cards in your name.
    • If they open a new credit card in your name, they can make purchases that you have no way of tracking unless you check your credit statement!
  • They can also apply for and get identification like passports in your name.

Identity theft can be scary, but if you protect yourself, the odds of it happening to you are fairly slim. Make sure you do not fall for the regular hoaxes and trust your gut; if you think something isn’t right, double check it. If you have any concerns about credit cards, bank accounts or loans in your name, contact your bank through the number on the back of your debit or credit card. Don’t open unsolicited emails from strangers and certainly don’t believe anything a stranger says to you calling from a random number.

March is Fraud Prevention Month and we’re trying to do our part in assuring that you and your loved ones are safe. If you are contacted by any of these scams, make sure you report it to your local police department using the non-emergency line found on their website.