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2008, NEWS CANADA / PUBLIC SAFETY CANADA - If someone stole your identity, how would you know? Here are some ways to protect yourself



(NC) - Monitor your credit rating and accounts - "Check your credit rating every year or two through Equifax or TransUnion," says Chartered Accountant Jennifer Fiddian-Green, a forensic accounting partner with Grant Thornton LLP in Toronto. She herself was a victim of identity theft and investigated her own case. "Make sure everything on your credit report is correct and if it's not, follow up right away." Also monitor your bank, credit card and loan or mortgage statements for unauthorized transactions.


Pay attention to anything unusual - "If you stop receiving bank or credit card statements or don't receive new or replacement credit cards, bank cards or cheques, it could mean that your personal information has been stolen," says Chartered Accountant Andrew Shin, a director of Wintrip Wolkoff Shin Inc., a Toronto forensic accounting firm. "Another sign is being denied a bank loan or credit card when you should have a good credit rating."


Fiddian-Green realized someone had stolen her identity to commit fraud when she began receiving phone calls from financial institutions claiming she owed them money. "Don't ignore phone calls like that, even if you think they have nothing to do with you, because it could be a sign of identity theft," she says.


Act quickly if you suspect identity theft - "Contact the financial institution immediately to determine what has happened," advises Shin. "Review your credit rating and contact the land registry office to determine if property has been falsely registered in your name."

Fiddian-Green, who spent more than 200 hours dealing with the financial fallout of identity theft, says it's important to make the financial institutions involved understand that you had nothing to do with the fraud and are not responsible for paying them back.


"Some people have the misconception that they are responsible," she says. "But you're as much of a victim as the defrauded financial institutions are."


Protect your personal information - "Don't disclose your Social Insurance Number (SIN), bank card personal identification number (PIN) or credit card security numbers unless you're certain the person or organization you are dealing with is legitimate and that the disclosure is necessary," says Shin.


Shred sensitive documents and don't put anything with your address or other identifying information in the recycling bin. "Be careful when filling out application forms and when asked for an electronic signature," adds Fiddian-Green. "Ask who has access to the information and how they are protecting it. Once you give out information, you lose control of it."


Talk to a Chartered Accountant - "If you are a victim of identity theft, a CA can help you understand what is happening and give you the confidence to deal with the financial institutions involved," says Fiddian-Green. "A CA can also help you determine whether your accounts and properties are registered in the proper way."






To reduce your chances of becoming an identity theft victim, follow these basic safety tips:


- Memorize your Social Insurance Number.  Do not carry the SIN card with you


- Memorize your passwords.  Don't record your passwords on papers you carry with you


- Don't use your date of birth as your password


- Always shred all pre-approved credit applications and other financial documents before discarding them


- Never giver personal or financial information over the phone or Internet, unless you were the one initiating the contact


- Order credit reports every year from each of the major credit reporting agencies and thoroughly review them for accuracy


- Report your lost or stolen credit cards immediately


- Check your monthly credit card and bank statements for unusual activity


- If you leave your computer connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, use a firewall program


- Never download files sent to yoy by strangers.  Never click on hyperlinks from people you don't know.



Identity theft refers to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.


Canadian and United States law enforcement agencies are seeing a growing trend in both countries towards greater use of identity theft as a means of furthering or facilitating other types of crime, from fraud to organized crime to terrorism. Increasingly, identity theft is a cross-border crime issue requiring collaboration of the international community. This public advisory highlights some of the most significant forms of identity theft in Canada and the United States, and explains how to recognize them and respond if you become a victim of identity theft.


Click on the links below to learn more.







What if you become a victim of identity theft?    


Then, follow these steps:  


- Contact your branch and other creditors for any accounts that have been opened or tampered with fraudulently. This may include credit card companies, phone companies, banks and other lenders. - Go to your local Police station or the Police station in the community where the identity theft took place and file a report.

- Contact the fraud departments of each of the two major credit bureaus.

Equifax: 1-800-465-7166Trans Union: 1-877-525-3823 except Quebec residents 1-877-713-3393 - Request that a "Fraud Alert" be placed in your files. At the same time order copies of your credit reports.

- Contact the PhoneBusters national call centre 1-888-495-8501. PhoneBusters is central sourcing point for all pertinent information on identity theft. To help identity trends and patterns, information is also used to assist law enforcement agencies in possible investigations.

- Keep a log of people you speak with, what day, and exactly what they said.



Identity theft complaints (2005)







Ont. 4729 $4,450,122.62
Que. 2614 $1,864,574.23
B.C. 2010 $1,376,499.08
Alta. 894 $431,221.89
Man. 361 $181,490.32
N.S. 177 $100,036.04
Sask. 157 $87,641.63
N.B. 127 $29,107.52
Unknown 82 $4,350.00
N.L. 58 $43,358.02
P.E.I. 18 $5,907.63
Yukon 3 $1,285.00
Nunavut 1 $0
Totals 11231 $8,575,593.98


Source: PhoneBusters




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