8 identity theft prevention tips
What do identity thieves look for?
Any document and information or combination thereof that can be used to identify you, like:
- Your first and last name
- Your address
- Your date of birth
- Your numbers
- Driver’s licence
- Social Insurance Number
- Bank account and PIN
- Your credit and debit cards
- Your signature (written or digital)
Fraudsters have vivid imaginations
Fraudsters will usurp your personal information by any means necessary, like:
- Sending spam and fraudulent emails using the identity of a reputable financial institution or commercial site (referred to as phishing), asking you for your personal information
- Using card readers to retrieve your debit and credit card information
- Stealing your wallet or purse
- Taking over your computer or installing malware on it
- Rooting through your garbage or recycling bin to recover bills, bank statements and other documents
- Redirecting your mail to another address
- Passing themselves off as your bank, employer or landlord over the phone
Often, fraudsters will prey on people’s trust and create a false sense of urgency, especially when preying on the elderly.
This can be as simple as eaves-dropping on your private conversations or looking over your shoulder.
Understanding how fraudsters get your personal information is your best defence.
How to protect yourself from identity theft?
Anyone can be conned; however, by being smarter and more vigilant than fraudsters, you will keep your private life… private.
Silence is golden
Never disclose your personal information unless it is required by law and only if you have utmost confidence in the person making the request.
For example, never give your credit card number or any other personal information over the phone, unless you are the one making the call.
As credible as an organization may seem, never give out personal information by email or via social media.
Always keep an eye on your cards
When making a purchase, never lose sight of your credit or debit card.
Ideally, swipe it or tap it on the terminal yourself.
Do not throw personal documents, bills, bank statements and personalized marketing offers in the garbage. Shred them or burn them.
Protect your personal information
Keep your personal information away from prying eyes.
It can be as simple as never leaving your wallet or purse unattended, or not leaving personal documents lying around in your car, office or home.
Collect your mail every day and get a mailbox that has a key or padlock. When you leave for vacation, ask a trustworthy person to pick up your mail or have your mail delivery suspended by Canada Post until your return.
Carry a light wallet
Bring only your essential ID.
Leave other cards at home in a safe place.
Use a variety of passwords and pins
Change your passwords often and always use special characters. Avoid any reference to important dates, your children’s names, your pets, etc.
Once again, be vigilant. Do no write your passwords or PINs on pieces of paper or in a file on your computer.
Several applications are available to manage passwords and PINs in utmost security.
Be wary of irregularities
Every month, peruse your bank and credit card statements to identify phantom transactions.
You can also add a fraud alert to your credit file. When in doubt, these organizations will contact you to confirm your identity before approving any credit request. For as little as $15 per month, you will sleep easy!
Don’t be too transparent on social media
Be aware that whatever you post on social media could be used against you one day.
Your computer and mobile devices are not unbreachable
The most recent statistics from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reveal that several fraud or identity theft incidents are perpetrated through deceptive email or online. All the more reason to be extra vigilant with your computer and mobile devices:
- Install an antivirus or antispam filter and always download the recommended updates
- Only make online transactions via sites whose URL begins with “https” and a padlock icon appears in the URL field
- Never leave your devices in your vehicle because they could attract would-be thieves
- Be wary of deceptive emails or websites, especially those requesting personal information or money (remember, they are often poorly written and contain mistakes); when in doubt, do not open them or visit them
- Make sure your Wi-Fi network is password-protected
- Encrypt your confidential documents
- Before getting rid of a device, do a factory reset which permanently deletes all files
- If you make online purchases, always log out of your account and empty the device’s cache
Your insurer to the rescue
Ask your insurer for more information on identity theft. They are there to help you if it ever happens to you.
Note: This blog post is provided for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional legal, financial or fiscal advice. For advice specific to your personal situation, always speak with your advisor. SSQ Insurance cannot be held responsible for any decision made as a result of reading this blog post.