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Identity theft is costing Canadians

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on February 12th, 2021

A survey done by the CPA Canada in 2020 found many Canadians continue to use unsafe and outdated techniques to protect themselves and their personal data.

Why is this something we should all pay attention to? Identity theft.

In 2019, 45,000 Canadians fell victim to fraud in 2019 losing more than $96 million. As per the study’s findings, 34 percent of survey respondents have personally experienced fraud, with 18 percent saying they were victims of credit card fraud and five percent saying they were subjected to online fraud.

The survey – conducted in early 2020 with 2,013 randomly selected Canadian adults from CPA’s online panel –-found that 74 percent of Canadians visited or bought items from web-based retailers in 2019, while the same number bank online. Given the global pandemic, those numbers have only risen and the frequency with which you carry out online transactions increases your risk – especially if you’re not using a secure system. As well, 70 percent share their lives on social media.

All this means there are lots of pickings for identity thieves.

Types of ID fraud

Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge for criminal purposes. They may use it to gain access to your financial accounts, hack into your online accounts, and/or defraud others. Once they access your personal information, identity thieves can also:

  • spend money from your accounts
  • open new bank accounts
  • change your passwords and contact information for your online accounts
  • apply for loans, credit cards, and benefits in your name
  • rent an apartment or car
  • commit other crimes using your credentials

Another form of identity theft is when someone sets up accounts on social media channels or websites using your name, image, and/or other information. While this may not cause harm to your financial accounts, it can harm your reputation.

So how do you know you’re a victim of identity theft?

According to the Government of Ontario, there are many ways your identity can by stolen. Some of the more common methods include stealing your mail, looking for personal documents in your trash, tampering with ATMs or card machines in shops to steal your banking information, taking personal information through public sources such as social media.

What do identity thieves look for?

  • credit cards
  • bank cards and PINs
  • passport
  • driver’s license
  • SIN card

Your identity may also be stolen from your online transactions. If you don’t change your passwords and strengthen your web security features regularly, it can become easy for someone to access your:

  • email (to steal personal and financial information, schedules, etc.)
  • online shopping accounts (to steal credit card and address information)
  • banking accounts (to transfer funds, open new accounts or apply for loans)
  • credit card accounts (to shop and apply for new cards)
  • government accounts (to change your contact information on government IDs, access benefits, etc.)

What if my identity is stolen?

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has step by step advice on what to do if you have mistakenly provided your personal information to an unknown person.

If you think your financial accounts have been breached, you can pay to put an alert on your credit report. This can alert those checking your credit to make sure they are dealing with you and not an imposter.

But there are other steps you can take, including:

  1. Strengthen your passwords - Consider online password managers, which can help you securely keep track of your passwords. Or consider using two-factor authentication, which is when you have to enter a code sent via text along with a password when logging into a site.
  2. Review transactions - One of the easiest ways to detect fraud is to monitor your credit card transactions. An unexpected charge could be a sign that something suspicious has occurred.
  3. Shred personal documents – Once it’s in the garbage, it’s ripe for the taking. You never know where it may end up.
  4. Watch your credit score - It’s a good idea to know your credit score—36 percent of Canadians do not, according to the CPA Canada survey—because any change in that score could be a sign that a fraud has occurred. Credit monitoring agencies Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada can send you one free report a year, while you can also sign up for notifications that can alert you of potential fraud.
  5. Screen your calls – Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.
  6. Consider buying Identity theft insurance – For a small fee, these policies can help restore your identity and offer peace of mind. HUB SmartCoverage, for example, offers one that provides $20,000 in coverage for only $30 a year.

Above all, with scammers getting increasingly sophisticated, it’s important you remain vigilant.

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