With the increased use of technology in today’s world, concerns about fraud and identity theft are becoming more prevalent. Identity theft is the practice of stealing someone’s personal and financial data and using it without their permission. Identity thieves may use this information to access a victim’s credit card, file fraudulent tax or health claims, or sell the information to someone else.
The first step you can take to protect yourself is to learn how it works. From there, you’ll be able to take additional steps to limit your exposure. There’s no way to prevent identity theft totally, but you can make it more difficult for criminals to gain access to your information and accounts.
In this blog, we’ll go through ways you can recognize identity theft, protect yourself and what to do if you’ve been targeted. Keep reading to learn more.
Recognizing signs of identity theft
There are many ways identity theft can affect you and there are ways to identify it. Learning the signs can help you take action to stop it and prevent it from becoming worse. Here’s what you can look out for:
Your bills no longer arrive at your address
While we all dread getting bills, if you’re no longer receiving them, it could mean that your personal data has been compromised. When an identity thief gets your details, they’ll often change your billing address to try to prevent you from seeing your statements.
Your loan or credit card application is rejected
Sometimes a sure sign you’ve been targeted by a thief is when you’ve been rejected for a credit card, and know you have a good credit history. Monitor your statements monthly to help prevent this from going on too long.
Unauthorized transactions are registered in your account
There’s a good chance you’ve been breached if you notice transactions on your bank or credit card accounts that were not made by you. Being billed for overdue payments or getting an invoice for a purchase you don’t recognize are signs to watch for.
The CRA sent you a rejection notice
If you ever receive a rejection notice from the CRA for a duplicate return after you file your taxes, this could mean a tax return has been fraudulently filed in your name.
Your credit card statement has small charges
When credit cards are stolen, it’s common for fraudsters to test small purchases first. These will typically be under five dollars and once the credit card is approved, the thief will begin making larger transactions.
There are suspicious activities in your accounts
Companies that you regularly do business with may alert you via phone or text if they detect fraudulent activity such as a suspicious transaction.
If anything like the above happens, it’s important to alert your financial institutions. Then you can take immediate steps to prevent it from continuing.
Tips to protect your identity
These days, your identity can be compromised anywhere or any place. Here are some tips to take to prevent this from happening:
- Watch what you share. Many thieves are tech-savvy and can gather enough information to steal your identity from what you share online (your home, email addresses, family members names, birthday and so on). They’ll use this information for scams, phishing or even theft.
- Don’t take the bait. Don’t divulge personal details over the phone, internet or through email unless you were the one to initiate contact.
- Monitor your statements and report any suspicions immediately. Not only should you review your credit report annually, but you should consider signing up for additional monitoring to watch out for fraudulent activities. Detecting and reporting problems immediately, helps minimize the impact.
- Strong passwords help. Don’t use easy passwords for your online activities. Make them complicated by mixing letters, numbers and special characters. Switching them up regularly also helps.
- Public Wi-Fi is not your friend. Connecting to public Wi-Fi through your mobile device makes it vulnerable to viruses and hackers. It’s especially important not to connect to public networks when logging into your bank apps. Only download applications from trusted sources when you’re at home on your secure network.
- Review your bills and transactions regularly. Monitor your bank accounts and credit cards for any unauthorised expenses or withdrawals. If you spot anything, report it immediately. Call the vendors if your preauthorized payments and other bills don’t come out on time. It could signal that someone has changed your contact details to try to hide charges they’re making.
- Keep your personal information in a safe, secure place. This becomes more important if you have work done by trades coming into your house, you employ outside help weekly for home services, or you have a roommate.
- Pick up your mail daily. This will help keep your private information from getting into the hands of those who break into community mailboxes. If you go on vacation, leave your mail key with someone you trust. If you move, sign up for mail forwarding services that will send your mail to your new address and give you time to inform all the companies you do business with.
- Shred, shred, shred. We don’t need to keep every little thing we get sent, but before discarding, shred documents that contain credit applications, security numbers, addresses, names, insurance forms, bank statements, cheques, and other information that divulges any information about you and your circumstances. People pick through garbage and recycling, so make it harder for them.
Has your identity been stolen?
Identity thieves can strike when you least expect it. That’s why it’s important to take precautions to protect your personal data. The steps you take to prevent your information and identity from being stolen can make you a more difficult target and stop potential thieves in their tracks.
You could also take it up a notch by purchasing identity theft insurance, which is designed to cover some of the costs related to identity theft (phone bills, legal assistance), and reimburse you for money spent on reclaiming your identity and repairing your credit reports. If you’d like to learn more, contact a insurance advisor at BrokerLink today!
FAQs about identity theft protection
What is medical identity theft?
This is when someone steals your social insurance number (SIN number), your name, or your healthcare number and uses it to submit fraudulent claims to health insurers without your permission. This practice is more common in countries like the United States where more citizens have private health insurance.
What should I do if my identity is stolen?
If you suspect your identity has been stolen and if you have insurance, contact your brokerage immediately for help determining next steps. You may have to seek help from your local police department and provide the case file number to your financial institutions immediately. Your bank and credit card company should be able to help you obtain new cards and prevent other fraudulent purchases. Your specific situation may warrant other steps, but your insurance, financial and legal advisor will be able to explain what else you need to do in depth.
How does skimming work?
Credit or debit card skimming occurs when you slide your card into a compromised machine that reads your magnetic strip, stores your card number, and may even capture your pin if a fake keypad is used. Thieves will take this information to sell or use themselves. Many financial institutions have implemented tap nowadays, which helps prevent this practice.