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On the subject of identity theft

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As we close out Fraud Prevention Month, our Office is encouraging Canadians to learn more about how to prevent identity theft and fraud.

Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre statistics for 2012 indicate that although the number of complaints are lower than in previous years (41,496 in 2012 compared to 48,061 and 51,947 in 2011 and 2010 respectively), the financial damages incurred have actually increased by over $17 million in the same period.

At no age can individuals consider themselves safe from the risk of identity theft.  Although Canadians between the ages of 50-59 appear to be those most targeted by thieves, victims can range from newborn infants to the elderly – anyone who has personal information may have that information targeted and/or stolen.

What Can I Do?

There are some basic measures that individuals can take in order to better control over their personal information and help restrict the availability of their information to identity thieves:

Take care what documents you carry with you

Many of the identification documents we carry with us on a daily basis are useful not just for our purposes but for those of identity thieves.  Carrying foundational identity documents like your social insurance number (SIN) card increases the risk of fraud since such information, in connection with other personal information, can be sufficient to allow someone to open an account in your name.

Be actively aware of your own credit profile and history

Be aware of the billing cycles of your credit providers and stay alert for missing bills.  When bills come in, review them carefully.  And contact the Canadian credit bureaus – TransUnion and Equifax – to report suspected identity theft and obtain a free copy of your credit report to ensure it is accurate and doesn’t include debts you haven’t incurred.

Know why and to whom you are giving your personal information

Don’t be lulled into uncritical obedience when someone asks for sensitive information – ask for what purpose the information is collected, how it will be used and shared, what happens if you refuse. If you’re not satisfied, don’t hand it over.

Be thoughtful about how you use social networks

Don’t let your social networking profile be a goldmine for fraudsters.

Be discreet about what you post online. Think about what information you're putting out there, and the implications of it. Lock down your privacy settings, and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know in real life.  Regularly change your passwords and make sure that they’re sufficiently robust.  Think critically about what information you’re being asked to provide, and make your own active decisions about what information you share and why.

What If It Happens to Me?

If you suspect that your personal information has been hijacked and misappropriated to commit fraud or theft, take action immediately and keep a record of your conversations and correspondence.

For more information, visit the OPC’s page on identity theft and fraud and check out our infographic featuring top tips for preventing identity theft.

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