In the digital age, our identities are not as simple as our names, our passports, or our credit cards. We are a complex nest of interactions of identifiers, some physical, some represented by lines of code spread from website to website as we go about our daily lives.
As the definitions of our identities grow broader, so too does the necessity of protecting them in new and different ways.
A recent survey of 1,500 Canadians conducted on behalf of Mogo Finance Technology Inc. reveals that 86 percent of respondents believe that they are increasingly at risk of identity theft and identity fraud. However, only 24 percent of respondents reported making the simple choice to help protect themselves with an identity fraud protection solution.
It’s important to know the signs of a possible attempt to defraud your identity, and to know what to do if you suspect you have been affected.
Signs of Identity Fraud
Some warning signs can tell you that someone might be trying to steal your personal information. Contact your financial provider if:
You are contacted by a creditor because an application for credit that you did not apply for was received in your name and with your address.
- You receive a phone call or letter informing you that you have been denied or approved by a creditor that you never applied to.
- You receive credit card statements or other bills with your information that you never applied to.
- You no longer receive your credit card statements or any of your mail.
- You are contacted by a collection agency informing you that they are collecting for a defaulted account established with your identity that you never opened.
- You are asked for sensitive information such as your banking PIN, Social Security Number, online service passwords, or bank account number over the phone without other verification.
- You note a significant difference or error from one credit report to the next.
How to Protect Yourself
Protecting yourself from identity fraud requires equal measures of specific preparation and common sense. Attempts to defraud your identity often go to great lengths to mimic legitimate requests for information, whether over the phone or on websites that have been carefully crafted to look just like the ones you use for online services.
- If you’re not sure whether a request from a website, email or phone request for information is legitimate, call your bank or service provider and ask whether they issued you any such request.
- Review your credit report at least once a year. If you can identify any outstanding agreements with companies that you don’t recognize, contact Equifax or TransUnion.
- Cancel your inactive credit cards when they expire. Destroy the physical cards by cutting them up so that your account information cannot be retrieved from them.
- Make sure to unsubscribe and cancel online shopping, investment, banking or e-commerce accounts that you no longer use.
- Don’t send confidential information in emails, especially to accounts that you don’t recognize as secure.
- Decide on a document management plan. You may want to keep the paper copies of your statements for your reference, but documents older than seven years should be considered for destruction or offsite archiving as long as they are consistent with your other, more recent records.
- Consider setting up a fraud alert for your credit. Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada can put a fraud alert put on your credit files. With this fraud alert, creditors that have viewed your credit report will have to contact you before extending credit. This can help prevent someone else from taking out a loan or credit card in your name.
If you suspect that you might have exposed sensitive personal information to someone who shouldn’t be seeing it, contact your bank, credit agencies and existing creditors right away. It’s always best to proceed with an abundance of caution in these cases – it doesn’t cost you much time or effort to make sure that some of your most important information is safe.