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PRIVACY COMMISSIONER'S MESSAGE: FIVE KEY STEPS TO REDUCE THE RISK OF IDENTITY THEFT

Source: Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Posted on March 25, 2005

      Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes and it can affect everyone, including you. Protect your personal information from being at risk.

      Identity theft involves the unauthorized collection and use of your personal information, including your name, date of birth, address, credit card, Social Insurance Number and other personal identification numbers, usually for fraudulent purposes.

      The societal and personal costs of identity theft can be significant, but there are some basic steps you can take to reduce your risk:

      1. Protect your computer by using a firewall, anti-virus software and other security measures. An increasingly common practice is the use of malicious code (viruses, worms and Trojan horses) to acquire the personal information needed to commit identity theft.

      2. Always be suspicious of e-mails from financial institutions, Internet service providers and other organizations asking you to provide personal information online. Reputable firms generally do not ask for personal information in this manner,but if you are at all uncertain, look up their phone number in the phone directory and call them. Clues to fraudulent e-mails include lack of personal greetings and spelling or grammatical errors. Under no circumstances should you click on any links in the e-mail or cut and paste them into your browser - chances are the link will take you to a fake website.

      3. Identity theft does not solely take place online. Protect your mail - place outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove incoming mail from your mail box. Get into the habit of shredding or destroying pre-approved credit card, insurance or loan applications, bills, credit card receipts - anything that contains your personal information - when no longer needed. Also, get into the habit of checking your credit report on an annual basis - the major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada) will provide one free report each year.

      4. Do not give out personal information over the phone, unless you know the person to whom you are speaking, or you initiated the call yourself. If someone calls with an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do not let them pressure you into disclosing personal information or making any other commitment - if they do pressure you, hang up.

      5. If, for any reason, you believe or suspect that your personal information may have been compromised, contact the proper authorities (i.e., your bank, credit card issuer, credit reporting bureaus, utility provider, and so on) as soon as possible. Depending on the nature, extent and severity of the compromise, you should also consider contacting local law enforcement




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