Identity theft is one of the fastest growing consumer crimes in Canada. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or consent to commit a crime, such as fraud or theft.
Why you should be concerned about identity theft?
Identity thieves steal key pieces of personal information and use it to impersonate you and commit crimes in your name. In addition to names, addresses and phone numbers, thieves look for social insurance numbers, drivers licence numbers, credit card and banking information, bank cards, calling cards, birth certificates and passports.
They may physically steal important documents, or they may find out your personal information in other ways, without your knowledge.
Once they steal the information, identity thieves can manipulate it and invade your personal and financial life. They can use stolen identities to conduct spending sprees, open new bank accounts, divert mail, apply for loans, credit cards, and social benefits, rent apartments and even commit more serious crimes and, once arrested, they use their new identity.
Identity thieves get your personal information by:
- Buying the information from a dishonest employee working where personal and/or financial information is stored.
- Removing mail from your mailbox or fraudulently redirecting your mail.
- Stealing personal and private information from wallets, purses, mail, your home, vehicle, computer, and Web sites you've visited or e-mails you've sent.
Retrieving personal information in your garbage or recycling bin by "dumpster diving".
- Posing as a creditor, landlord or employer to get a copy of your credit report or access to your personal information from other confidential sources.
- Tampering with automated banking machines (ABMs) and point of sale terminals, enabling thieves to read your debit or credit card number and personal identification number (PIN).
- Searching public sources, such as newspapers (obituaries), phone books, and records open to the public (professional certifications).
Signs your identity might have been stolen:
- Bills and statements don't arrive when they are supposed to - they may have been stolen from the mailbox or someone has changed the mailing address.
- You receive calls from collection agencies or creditors for an account you don't have or that is up to date. Someone may have opened a new account in your name, or added charges to an account without your knowledge or permission.
- Financial account statements show withdrawals or transfers you didn't make.
- A creditor calls to say you've been approved or denied credit that you haven't applied for. Or, you get credit card statements for accounts you don't have.
- You apply for credit and are turned down, for reasons that do not match your understanding of your financial position.