You don’t think it can happen to you – until it does….
Identify theft can happen to anyone. Since more people are going online to shop, bank, file taxes etc. there is an increased risk of savvy thieves stealing the personal information of millions of consumers. Even if you’re careful, a thief may be able to attain your information by hacking into the systems of larger businesses. Stolen information allows thieves to open bank accounts and lines of credit, open new credit cards, and more. What can you do if you find out your information has been compromised?
There have been notable data breaches in the last few years including Equifax, CVS, and Walmart Canada. As a result of increased data breaches, the Canadian government is considering new regulations that would require companies to report data breaches; at the provincial level, only Alberta currently requires companies to do so, according to the CBC.
What to do if you’re the victim of a data breach:
You feel violated when you become a victim of such a breach. But as we’ve seen, you may not know you’re the victim of a breach until you hear about it on the news! The first thing you should do if you suspect you’re a victim is to check your credit reports from both Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada. The report is free if you request it by mail. The process may vary by credit bureau so refer to their websites for instructions.
Next, monitor your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized activity and review each charge carefully. Equifax Canada allows Canadian adults to place an alert on their credit files. The company also offers three types of file alerts:
- Identity alerts for residents of Manitoba and Ontario (credit bureaus are required to offer credit alerts services to residents in these provinces)
- Lost or stolen alerts if a person has misplaced their personal identification or financial information or had it stolen;
- Fraud alerts in response to suspicious credit applications or unauthorized charges. These alerts warn creditors that your information was stolen and prompts them to verify the identity of anyone looking to get credit in your name.
However, even with these tools available, it is still up to you to monitor your credit and report any unauthorized or suspicious activity.
What to do if your information has been stolen:
Although credit card microchips have curtailed counterfeiting, thieves have become focused on opening new accounts with stolen information. Older Canadians tend to be the largest target for thieves; According to the Competition Bureau, Canadians between the ages of 60 and 79 lost $28 million in scams between the years 2014-2016.
If you learn your information has been compromised, here are some steps to take to regain control of your information. In every situation, you’ll want to contact your local authorities to report the theft, as your bank and creditors may require a report number to recover your money. Also, continue to check your credit report and report any additional unauthorized activity.
If your debit or credit card number has been stolen:
- Contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and get a new one.
- Review all of your transactions and call the fraud department if you notice fraudulent charges.
- Update your automatic payments with the new card number as soon as it arrives.
If your bank account information has been stolen:
- Contact your bank to close your account and open a new one.
- Review your transactions and contact the fraud department to report false charges.
- Update automatic payments with your new information.
If your drivers licence information has been stolen:
- Contact the MTO or registry agent for a new licence. You’ll need to provide valid identification and pay a fee.
Identity Fraud: An underreported crime
Only an estimated five percent of fraud is reported to the authorities, according to the Competition Bureau. Why don’t more people report their information stolen? According to a recent study they may feel too embarrassed. Others didn’t report because the amount stolen was so small, they didn’t want to go through the hassle. The same research suggests that businesses don’t report data breaches because they do’t want to look vulnerable and damage their brands..
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