Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft and Fraud

(or how not to lose money through others ways than your smartphone)

Identity theft and fraud of another person (living or dead) is rampant and growing in Canada. In 2014 alone, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 40,986 complaints, of which 13,690 were victims losing a total of nearly $69 million, up $4 million from the previous year. Failing to protect your identity increases your vulnerability to being victimized by a criminal seeking to obtain your data for their own personal benefit. Your passwords, email accounts or even banking information may be accessed through elaborate internet technology schemes such as skimming, phishing, and hacking, by listening or looking over your shoulder in public places for credit card information. An unsolicited phone call asking you to verify banking or personal information in order to receive a package, promotion or prize should not mislead you. Your discarded “pre-approved” credit cards received in the mail could be collected from your trash and your mail could be intercepted and redirected without your knowledge. With sufficient identifying information, a criminal can conduct a wide range of crimes.

To reduce or minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud, you need to manage your personal information wisely with awareness. You likely have enough obligations and debt to deal with let alone lose funds to crime. You can help guard against identity theft by taking precautions when at home and on travel, outlined below.

At Home

Monitoring and checking over your monthly bills and statements for accuracy is a quick way to check for any errors or weird activity, including any unauthorized withdrawals or charges. If you are not receiving statements and/or learn, that your address was changed, you should notify your financial institution to seek further guidance, check over everything/make corrections and obtain copies of all missed statements for payment purposes.

Shredding documents that contain your name, address, account numbers, birth date or social insurance numbers protects your identity in a way that trashing or recycling them will not. You should also destroy unsolicited credit card offers and cheques, old photo IDs, pay stubs and old tax returns and use only the financial services of reputable companies. Consider paperless statements from banks and credit card companies to reduce the risk that sensitive personal identifying information could be stolen from your mail.

Your wallet should not contain PINs, passwords or any unnecessary identification documents such as your SIN card or birth certificate. Unused credit and debit cards should be removed and you should use only one debit and credit card if possible.

Your electronic devices should be protected with a user password, anti-spyware and anti-virus software, with a two way firewall enabled. Your internet browser history on your computer and smartphone should be cleared regularly to prevent hackers from accessing stored passwords. Your electronic devices should also be regularly cleared of old, unused and unnecessary files, accounts and applications. Important documents, photos and tax returns should be backed up and stored on a separate flash drive, compact disc or external hard drive instead. It is recommended that you use privacy settings on social media accounts and to connect only with the people you know. You should pre-arrange the ability to remotely shut down your phone should it become lost.

When donating or recycling old computers, smartphones or other devices, it is prudent to erase the memory completely and restore to factory settings.

All financial account passwords should be changed periodically (at least every few months) and be comprised of a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. Passwords should be stored where they are neither visible nor easy to find and should not be shared with anyone or saved online except on a secure site.

Important documents should be kept in a safety deposit box or a fire-proof locked safe, such as passports, birth and marriage certificates, Wills, property deeds, domestic contracts, separation agreements, investment certificates and any business information.

Unsolicited phone calls, mail, and door-to-door salespersons should be met with some skepticism with personal or financial information guarded. Information you provide to professionals that you do business with should be limited to the business at hand.

Free credit reports from Equifax and Transunion can be obtained and checked annually. These reports will show if any fraudulent credit accounts (or inquires) were opened or used in your name.

On Travel

If you will be away for a lengthy period, you may want to arrange for your mail to be held at your local post office or redirected and have a person you can trust watch over your home and pick up the flyers. Your vacant property should have a monitored home security system and lights on timers and the exterior maintained to give a lived-in look. You will also want to notify your financial institution of your travel plans so they do not suspect fraud where there is legitimate activity.

Your passport, personal documents, traveller’s cheques and wallet should be kept secure at all times, such as in a safe provided in your hotel room. If you are travelling out of the country, you can register with the local embassy and keep your passport with them or your hotel front desk. If you are travelling by vehicle, important documents and valuables should not be stored in your glove box; for example, you vehicle ownership and insurance information rather should be carried with you instead.

Your identity should be guarded at all times, including your full name, home address and hotel room number. When using the telephone, never talk publically or on a cell phone about personal financial information or discuss your travel plans; use a private landline or closed telephone booth for privacy where possible.

Identity Theft and Fraud Risk Management

Increasing your awareness about how to protect yourself from identity theft and fraud at home and when travelling is time well spent. The damage that a criminal can do in stealing your identity and using it to commit fraud can take far longer to undo than to commit the crimes in the first place and you could face significant financial losses and the difficult task of correcting incorrect information about your financial or personal status and reputation. Once the crime has already been committed, you may discover fraudulent loans, credit cards and bank withdrawals, with statements directed to another address or a passport obtained in your name and government benefits collected. You may only discover the problem when a collection agency contacts you for payment or you have reason to contact with government agencies.

We hope these ideas help prevent financial and identity loss. But, whenever debt is of concern to you, talk to us at A. C. Waring & Associates Inc. We can help deal with your debt problems through our services, like credit counselling, debt consolidation, creditor proposals or bankruptcy protection. We're here to help you get debt off your back. Call for a free consultation at 780-424-9944 (1-800-463-3328, Alberta).

A.C. Waring & Associates

First Edmonton Place, 410-10665 Jasper Ave NW, Edmonton, AB, T5J 3S9|
Main: 780-424-9944 | After Hours: 780-423-3328 | Toll Free: 800-463-3328
 
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A.C. Waring & Associates is your trusted Edmonton-based regional bankruptcy trustee and debt solutions company. We specialize in debt solutions for personal or business matters, including debt and credit counselling, debt consolidation, consumer proposals, bankruptcy proceedings and other debt help solutions. If you are overwhelmed by debt and need solutions, A.C. Waring & Associates will help you find the path to a debt-free life. We proudly offer services to Northern Alberta communities as far as Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray and the surrounding areas. Contact us today for a free consultation at 780-424-9944 or toll-free at 1-800-463-3328.