Identity theft is the #1 non-violent crime in Canada
Martha Stewart was a freshman in college when it wasn't the same thing to be "Martha Stewart" anymore. All of a sudden, it meant having cheques rejected from anyone who ran them through a scanner. She was blackballed for writing bad cheques. The catch is, Stewart herself has never written a bad cheque in her life, but that didn't stop someone else from using a fake driver's licence with her number on it and passing bad cheques with her good name.
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"I still don't know how they got my driver's licence number," she says now, several years later.
Stewart was the victim of a relatively minor case of identity theft, which is when someone takes someone else's personal information, such as bank card numbers, social insurance number (SIN) and the such without permission and passes that information off as their own. Identity theft is the #1 non-violent crime in Canada and authorities report that I.D. theft incidents have doubled in one year. Many times, perpetrators gain access to our personal identity through the Internet.
Personal information is found on so many web sites that "packages" with all a would-be identity thief could ever need are selling for as little as $20. Identity theft usually takes on a predictable pattern. Once an identity (name and/or account number) is purchased, the damage begins with accounts being wiped out or loans taken out in the stolen name. Parliament hopes to soon pass a bill that would make these sales illegal and a punishable
Identity theft requires swift action by victim to prevent more damage by this non-violent
Some figures estimate that 50% of identity fraud occurs after you find out that your identity has been stolen. That's because credit card bureaus don't always offer assistance in a timely manner. One in nine I.D. theft victims are arrested for grand theft auto after a thief purchases a car in their stolen name. One in six victims has been targeted by a friend or family member. These are some sobering points to keep in mind as you look to maintain and improve your credit and savings. Here are some questions to ask yourself and some tips to help you stay out of hot
If you receive several offers of pre-approved credit (for loans or credit cards) every week, you are already at high risk. Be sure to shred them before putting them in the trash.
Do not, for any reason, carry your Social Insurance Number (S.I.N.) card in your wallet or purse.
If you do not have a PO Box or a locked, secured mailbox, get one.
If you use an unlocked, open mailbox at work or at home to drop off outgoing mail, think about how easy it would be for anyone to know anything about you
If you do not shred or tear banking and credit information when you throw it in the trash, you should invest the best $50 of your life ... in a paper shredder (check out the supply at Canadian Tire online).
If you are going to give out your SIN when asked, be sure to inquire as to how it will be safeguarded and ask if they will accept a birth date instead.
If your work or school requires you to use your SIN for identification purposes, challenge the process and protect yourself.
Do not have your SIN or driver's licence number printed on your personal cheques.
Do not carry insurance cards that use your SIN as the identification number.
If you have not ordered a copy of your credit reports in over a year, make it your first priority today.
If you do not believe that people would root around in your trash looking for credit or financial information, you couldn't be more wrong. Sometimes all the precautions in the world still might not safeguard your money entirely. Here are the steps you should follow if you do become a victim of this high-tech crime.
First, file a police report and keep a copy with you at all times.
Immediately cancel all credit lines, knowing that you are liable for $50 fraudulently charged on each credit card (unless your legal agreement eliminates liability).
Create a paper trail of all correspondence and phone calls that you make as you attempt to restore your name and financial identity.
Keep copies of all documentation - forever!
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