Identity theft has been on the rise for the last few years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. If you’ve ever had your identity stolen, you know how frustrating and costly the process is of getting your life back. Legal fees, time off work, certified mail—all these things add up not only to lots of money but time and stress. Identity theft scams are not only becoming more common but more elaborate. As is usually the case, your best defence against scams is knowledge.
What Is Identity Theft?
Simply put, Identity theft is exactly what it sounds like: stealing someone’s personal information in order to commit a crime, usually financial. Ranging from unsophisticated techniques like dumpster diving to elaborate online schemes, there are several ways thieves can get ahold of your personal information. These scams can leave you with an empty bank account and a mountain of credit card debt. While thieves are after as much personal information as possible, they typically target your:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Social insurance number
- Driver’s license
- Credit card
- Bank account
- Online login information
- Mother’s maiden name
There are a few simple things you can do to avoid identity thieves and protect your personal information:
- Track your spending: Keep an eye on your credit card and bank statements. If you don’t recognize a transaction, contact your financial institute immediately.
- Cancel lost cards: If you misplace your credit or debit card, or have reason to believe they’ve been stolen, contact your bank as soon as possible. They will cancel the card, ensuring no one can make any fraudulent purchases.
- Use complex passwords: When creating a password online, utilize a complicated password with a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols. This will make your password harder to crack for any would-be thieves.
- Keep your mailbox empty: If you have a mailbox that’s easily accessible, it’s a good idea to regularly empty it. Bank statements or other pieces of mail containing personal information can be easily stolen.
- Shred documents: After you’re done with any personal documents such as bank statements, shred them before disposing of them.
- Lock your cellphone: A lot of personal information is stored on your phone. Make sure you have a passcode on it to deter any thieves.
- Don’t give out personal information: If you receive an unsolicited phone call or email, be careful about providing any personal information. Phone and email scams are becoming more and more common.
A recent, and slightly alarming, trend are scams designed to intimidate people into handing over personal information. Be on the lookout for:
- Someone claiming they work for the CRA and that you owe money to the government.
- Someone who wants to access your computer because they found a virus.
- Someone who claims they are filing a lawsuit against you.
Government agencies, banks and other institutions typically don’t cold-call or email someone asking for personal information. If this does happen, contact that institution directly and report it.
Peace Of Mind Protection
Identity theft can still happen despite your best efforts to prevent it. As stated previously, this can lead to a frustrating and expensive situation. This is why many home, tenant and condo insurance policies cover costs incurred from reclaiming your identity. Coverage varies based on the policy, so it’s a good idea to reach out to a Regal Insurance broker to make sure you have the coverage you need.