According to Statistics Canada, in 2017 there were 17,542 identity theft and identity fraud victims in this country, with a 14% increase in incident rate over the last ten years. Two different things that are extremely serious offences under criminal law, identity theft refers exclusively to the stealing of your personal information such as your social insurance number (SIN), driver’s license, or banking passwords and account details. Identity fraud is when that information is used to create another you. Criminals apply for credit cards, take out loans, access bank accounts, even try for passports, all with your once-valid private information.
Very scary and very costly, it can take several years to fully recover from identity theft, especially if your social insurance number has been compromised. Getting a new SIN can take several months – even years – and requires a visit to a Service Canada centre with an armload of information like proof of your identity, a list of all of your addresses for the past ten years, a list of employers, printouts of every T4 you have ever received, and a photograph of yourself, all just to get the process started.
It’s becoming more common for identity theft insurance to be included in regular home insurance plans, but you shouldn’t assume that this is the case. Check your policy or ask your broker or provider to be sure you are covered. If identity theft insurance is not part of your home insurance plan, inquire if it can be added on as an additional rider.
How identity theft insurance works
Cleaning up after an incident of identity theft can be extremely expensive, and often requires litigation. Identity theft insurance generally includes coverage for expenses incurred when recovering your identity (such as for retaining legal counsel), and for any financial loss you may have experienced. Some policies also include credit bureau monitoring. Your claim should be handled by a case worker trained specifically in identity theft and its complicated, multi-layered fallout.
Warning signs of identity theft
It’s possible that someone could be using your identity for months – even years – without you realizing it. The faster you are able to identify the theft and put a stop to it, the better. Some of the warning signs that there may be a serious problem include:
- A notification that your data has been breached
- Notices or bills about loans or credit cards that you are unaware of
- Unauthorized activity on your credit card
- Bank withdrawals that you didn’t make
- Your credit score being lowered
- Denial of an application for additional credit
- Your utilities or your cellphone being cut off for apparently no reason
- Missing bills in the mail
- A call from a debt collector
If you think someone is using your identity
If you have even the slightest inclination that there is something nefarious going on with your identity, take these following steps:
- Fill out the Government of Alberta’s Identity Theft Statement. Report incidences to the police and be sure to obtain a police report.
- Notify your bank and follow their next steps.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports through Equifax Canada or TransUnion Canada.
- File a report through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
- Let your phone company, utility company, internet provider, television provider, and anyone else you hold accounts through know that you have been a victim of identity theft.
- If you have had issues with your mail, contact Canada Post.
- Record and save as much evidence as possible.
In these uncertain times when there are a lot of people ready to take advantage of the slightest weakness, it makes sense that every credit card holder run a free credit check every year. Equifax reports that checking your own credit will not impact your credit score, which is a common misunderstanding. They also recommend checking your credit score often to ensure accuracy in reporting.
Protect yourself from identity theft
From Alberta’s Consumer Protection Act, ways to protect yourself from identity theft include:
- Never giving your personal information out unless needed, and ensuring whoever you are giving it to has proper privacy protection in place.
- Shred everything with personal and/or financial information on it before discarding.
- Only carry the identification you need. Leave out items like your SIN card, your birth certificate, and rarely used credit cards.
- Protect your accounts with strong passwords, and do not sign in to sensitive websites from an unsecure network.
- Disable automatic log-ins on all accounts, and log out every time.
- Check your firewall and always keep your anti-virus software up to date.
- Make sure old phones and computers have been completely wiped before selling or trading them.
- Never make a purchase online without ensuring there is a secure transaction system.
- Match your receipts to your statements.
Lane’s Insurance is Here for You
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