Criminals gather your personal information, such as Social Insurance Number (SIN), bank account or credit card numbers, statements or medical records by stealing wallets, searching through mail, garbage and recycling bins. They use the information to sign up for new credit cards, open accounts, secure loans or collect government benefits. Most identity theft is self-detected.Criminals can also capture information electronically by phishing or using spyware. Phishing occurs when a criminal sends an email falsely claiming to be a legitimate organization in an attempt to fool you into submitting personal data, usually through a link to a “spoofed” website (a replica of the legitimate one). Phished sites may appear to have the correct web address or URL but when the link is clicked, you will be redirected to the spoofed site. To be safe, always type the website address into your browser.Spyware is another way to gain access to your information. It is a general term used for software that collects personal information – including capturing your key strokes – or changes the configuration of your computer, generally without appropriately obtaining your consent when you install other software.
To protect your information:
- Keep your SIN and birth certificate in a secure place, and limit their use.
- Shred or tear receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, credit offers, or any other personal information.
- Watch your mail to ensure your bills arrive on time and in sealed envelopes.
- Delete spam or other emails that ask for your banking information, credit card details, and password. Do not click on any links, or reply.
- Check your credit rating once per year to make sure no one has taken out a loan using your information.
- Keep your cheques in a safe and secure location, never in your vehicle.
If you suspect you have been the victim of identity theft, contact police immediately.