Tips to Minimize Risk
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When it comes to identity theft, you can't entirely control whether you will become a victim. But there are certain steps you can take to minimize your risk:
- Order a copy of your credit report. The Consumer Reporting Acts of each province requires all of the major nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a copy of your credit reports at your request. To order your free reports, contact each of the three major credit bureaus in Canada:
Equifax: 800-465-7166; http://www.equifax.com/EFX_Canada/;
TransUnion: 800-663-9980; http://www.transunion.ca/;
Experian (formerly Northern Credit Bureaus); http://www.creditbureau.ca/
Free versions of a credit report can be obtained if requested by mail, fax or via telephone automated system (with Equifax and TransUnion only). Free copies are delivered to the consumer by regular mail. Credit reports can be obtained instantly if ordered and purchased online from the bureau’s website, except for Experian. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Signs of fraud may include enquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you don’t recognize. Another indication of fraudulent activity may be the presence of incorrect information, like a wrong Social Insurance Number, names and/or address(es) that have never been associated with you, and companies with which you have never been employed.
- Place passwords on your credit card, bank, and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Insurance Number or phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. When opening new accounts, you may find that many businesses still have a line on their applications for your mother's maiden name. Ask if you can use a password instead.
- Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your home.
- Ask about information security procedures in your workplace or at businesses, doctors’ offices or other institutions that collect your personal identifcation information. Find out who has access to your personal information and verify that it is handled securely. Ask about the disposal procedures for those records as well. Find out if your information will be shared with anyone else. If so, ask how your information can be kept confidential.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves are clever, and have posed as representatives of banks, Internet service providers (ISPs), and even government agencies to get people to reveal their Social Insurance Number, mother's maiden name, account numbers, and other identifying information. Before you share any personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization. Check an organization's website by typing its URL in the address line, rather than cutting and pasting it. Many companies post scam alerts when their name is used improperly. Or, call customer service using the number listed on your account statement or in the telephone book.
- Deposit your outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox. If you're planning to be away from home and can't pick up your mail, call Canada Post Customer Service at 1-866-607-6301 to ask about the Hold Mail service. For a minimum fee, Canada Post will hold your mail at your local post office until you can pick it up or are home to receive it. Hold Mail requests are made online or at your local post office.
- Treat your mail and trash carefully. To thwart an identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information, tear or shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, cheques and bank statements, expired charge cards that you're discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail. To opt out of receiving offers of credit in the mail, contact the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) at 416-391-2362 to be registered with their Do Not Contact Service. The Do Not Contact Service enables individuals to reduce the number of marketing offers they receive by mail, telephone and fax. Consumers register to have their names removed from marketing lists held by members of the CMA.
- Don't carry your Social Insurance Number card; leave it in a secure place. Give out your Social Insurance Number only when absolutely necessary, and ask to use other types of identification. If your province uses your Social Insurance Number as your driver's licence number, ask to substitute another number. Do the same if your health insurance company uses your Social Insurance Number as your policy number.
- Carry only the identification information and the credit and debit cards that you'll actually need when you go out.
- Be cautious when responding to promotions. Identity thieves may create phony promotional offers to get you to give them your personal information.
- Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work. Do the same with copies of administrative forms that have your sensitive personal information.
- When ordering new cheques, pick them up from the bank instead of having them mailed to your home mailbox.