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Consumer Protection

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Tips for Reducing the Risk of Identity Theft

This tipsheet is intended to provide general information and is not a substitute for legal advice.

Identity theft (ID theft) is on the rise. It's one of the fastest growing crimes in the marketplace. This tip sheet identifies key ways to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Part 1: What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or consent to commit a crime, such as fraud or theft.

Why should you be concerned about identity theft?

Identity thieves steal key pieces of personal information and use it to impersonate you and commit crimes in your name. In addition to names, addresses and phone numbers, thieves look for social insurance numbers, drivers licence numbers, credit card and banking information, bank cards, calling cards, birth certificates and passports.

They may physically steal important documents, or they may find out your personal information in other ways, without your knowledge.

Once they steal the information, identity thieves can manipulate it and invade your personal and financial life. They can use stolen identities to conduct spending sprees, open new bank accounts, divert mail, apply for loans, credit cards, and social benefits, rent apartments and even commit more serious crimes and, once arrested, they use their new identity.

What are some of the signs your identity might have been stolen?

  • Bills and statements don't arrive when they are supposed to - they may have been stolen from the mailbox or someone has changed the mailing address.
  • You receive calls from collection agencies or creditors for an account you don't have or that is up to date. Someone may have opened a new account in your name, or added charges to an account without your knowledge or permission.
  • Financial account statements show withdrawals or transfers you didn't make.
  • A creditor calls to say you've been approved or denied credit that you haven't applied for. Or, you get credit card statements for accounts you don't have.
  • You apply for credit and are turned down, for reasons that do not match your understanding of your financial position.