In 2014 alone, almost 15 thousand Canadians were victimized by identity theft, according to the Canadian Anti-FraudCentre Annual Statistic Report. What can you do to guard your identity and protect yourself from potential financial losses?
Here are some ideas to consider:
Review your statements. Closely review the monthly statements from your checking and other financial accounts. If you findany unfamiliar charges, contact your bank or other financial services provider immediately.
Order your credit reports. The two credit reporting agencies – TransUnion Canada and Equifax Canada – keep records ofyour credit history. Make sure your name, address and other information are correct on your credit report, and if you findold or inaccurate information, have it removed.
Place a fraud alert. If you suspect you have become a victim of Identity theft, place a “fraud alert” on your credit reports bycontacting either of the two credit reporting agencies.
Feed your shredder. Shred all old bank and investment statements, applications for new credit cards and any otherdocuments that contain personal information.
Destroy digital data. If you have a variety of financial accounts, you’re not just creating a paper trail – you’re alsoestablishing a digital footprint. So, when you sell or otherwise dispose of a computer system or hard drive, you may want totake steps to destroy personal data. You might think that simply deleting it would be sufficient, but tech-savvy identitythieves can undelete files or recover information from a formatted drive. However, products are available that allow you tocompletely wipe out data on hard drives.
Change passwords. It’s a good idea to change your Internet passwords every so often, especially those passwords thatprovide access to financial accounts.
Leave your SIN card home. Snagging someone’s social insurance number is a real catch for identity thieves, so doeverything you can to thwart them. And you can start by leaving your social security card safely at home – after all, there’sprobably never a good reason to bring it out, anyway. In fact, be wary of anyone, or any business, that asks for your SocialInsurance Number, either in person or online. Except for a few obvious exceptions, such as your tax preparer, mostreputable businesses don’t need to know anything about your Social Insurance information.
Watch for phishers. If you’ve ever got an e-mail, supposedly from your bank, advising you that your account will be “frozen”unless you provide personal details about your account, it’s a good bet that someone is phishing for this information – andthey’re using the freezing threat as bait. What’s particularly alarming is that these phishers have gotten quite good atduplicating logos and using official-sounding language. However, a legitimate bank would never threaten you this way withan e-mail, so, if you get such a message, contact the bank’s fraud department.
You can go a long way toward protecting yourself against identity theft by following these suggestions — so put them towork soon.
Bruce Shepherd is a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Vernon. This article is provided for information purposes only.Consult with a professional advisor before implementing a strategy.