Author: John Farinaccio, CFE
Identity theft has become one of the fastest growing crimes, not only in Canada but in the world. Victims usually discover a problem when bills arrive or they were denied credit. By that time the criminal has probably discarded the identity and moved on to a new one. In most cases, victims do not have to pay the huge bills racked up by the thieves.They must however face hours of dealing with bill collectors, creditors and credit reporting agencies, trying to clear their names.
The living are not the only victims the dead are often targeted too. In fact, thieves often prefer stealing the identities of the dead. Who’s going to call the police?
How Can A Person Steal Your Identity?
First the thief needs to collect only a few of the following pieces of personal information: birth name, address, date of birth, social insurance number, and/or mother’s maiden name.
Where Can The Thief Get This Information From?
An identity thief can easily get this information by stealing your mail, stealing or finding a lost wallet, sifting through your garbage for discarded credit card statements or any other documents that contain your personal information. A new goldmine for thieves are social networking sites like Facebook. Too often people post way too much personal information like birthdays, full birth names, place of employment, telephone numbers, etc…
Simple Ways To Prevent Your Identification From Being Stolen:
Credit & Debit Cards
Sign all your cards as soon as you receive them. There is no need to carry all 6 credit cards & 4 debit cards you own. Only carry the one or two cards that you use the most often and cancel or safely store cards that you do not use.
Leave Home Without Them
No need to carry around your social insurance card, passport and/or birth certificate.
There are only a selected number of government departments and programs authorized to collect and use the Social Insurance Number. There is no law against someone asking for your Social Insurance Number. So unless you’re dealing with the government you are not obliged to disclose it. Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) states that organizations like banks, telecommunications companies and airlines cannot require you to consent to the collection, use or disclosure of your personal information unless it is required for a specific and legitimate purpose.
This means that unless an organization can demonstrate that your SIN is required by law, or that no alternative identifier would suffice to complete the transaction, you cannot be denied a product or service on the grounds of your refusal to provide your SIN.
If you disagree with a request for your SIN made by an organization that is subject to the PIPEDA, you can complain to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who will investigate the complaint.
Passwords & Personal Identification Numbers (PIN)
Never give anyone passwords and/or personal identification numbers and try to change them number every 6 months.
Never use your birth date as your passwords and/or PIN. Always memorize them and never have a written copy.
Protect Your Cheques
When signing cheques or other important documents use a pen like a Uniball 207 which will help protect against a technique used by id thieves called cheque washing. This is when a criminal uses various solvents to remove data from a signed cheque — the “pay to” name, the amount– and replaces it with data more beneficial to the criminal: his own name, a larger amount.
Report Any Problems Right-Away
Immediately report lost or stolen cards and any discrepancies on your monthly statements to the issuing card company.
Check your credit record every six months or at least once a year. Mistakes can and do happen. Any mistake can dramatically lower your overall credit score. You can do this by contacting the credit bureaus (Equifax,TransUnion), and by law, they are required to give you one free credit report per year.
Photocopy all your cards and any pieces of identification. Keep this list in a safe place (not your wallet or purse) so that you can contact each credit or quickly in case your cards are lost or stolen. Make a similar list for your bank accounts.
Visit this Canadian government website http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/lifeevents/wallet.shtml which gives you a step by step list of what to do if you lose your wallet, with a complete list of all the financial institutions and their contact information.
Destroy All Evidence
Every investigator knows what a dumpster diver or trash archaeologist is. A person can obtain invaluable amounts of information from someone’s trash. Invest in a quality paper shredder and destroy all paperwork that has any personal information that you no longer need including pre-approved credit card solicitations, convenience checks, bank statements, magazine subscription renewals, etc. Make sure the shredder has a cross-cut action and not a straight-cut action. It’s well worth the extra money.
Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank wickets, trashcans or gasoline pumps.
Do not leave important documents in your vehicle. (Remember what happened when a Canadian Security Intelligence Service officer left sensitive information in her car as she attended a hockey game? http://circ.jmellon.com/docs/view.asp?id=476
Social Engineering Techniques
Pre-texting or Phishing are techniques used by criminals to collect sensitive information from people either via telephone or email. Never give out personal information over the phone or via email unless you are absolutely sure who’s at the other end.
Secure Your Mail
Have your mail sent to a post office box where it is much more secure. If you choose to have mail sent to your home install a lockable mailbox. If you are away have your mail, newspapers and magazines picked up everyday.
When subscribing to magazines do not include your title, or actual birthname. If your name is Dr. Anthony Michael Kenton use Mike Kent. There is no need for your mailman or a mail snoop to know that you are a doctor, lawyer or other professional. The only people who are interested in your title are those who want something from you so please don’t let your ego put you at risk.
Another point to keep in mind is the issue of storing personal information on your computer’s hard drive. If you feel comfortable with doing this make sure that you protect your computer with a good anti-virus, firewall software and a password to log into your computer. All wireless connections must be secured. If you decide to sell your computer make sure it doesn’t include the hard drive. Even when a hard drive has been “erased”, deleted information can always be retrieved. Destroy it!
Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites such as Facebook are great… but they are also a playground for identity thieves. To reduce the risk of being a victim adjust the security settings as high as possible, only add people who you actually know and minimize the amount of personal information you display (i.e. your birthday)
These are very simple steps that everyone can take to keep from becoming a victim of identity theft.
Many have said that identity theft is unavoidable, undetectable, and unstoppable. The best piece of advice I can give is to be very conscious of who you’re giving your personal information to, where your personal information is ending up and paying attention to the people around you when using your personal information.
About the Author
John Farinaccio has over 17 years experience in investigations and intelligence gathering. In 1999 he founded The Canadian Private Investigators’ Resource Centre (C.P.I.R.C.) www.cpirc.com, and currently serves as the director of the largest Investigators’ Network in Canada. John has both managed and lead investigation & undercover surveillance teams, and has spearheaded the development of Advance Reconnaissance Teams for international Protection Details; many in hostile areas of operations.
Aside from being an instructor in Investigation, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism subjects, he is also a certified instructor in Monadnock PR-24 Police Baton, Monadnock Expandable Police Baton (MEB), Monadnock Defensive Tactics System (MDTS), Quick Stick Police Baton, amongst many others.
John has been called on by the media conducting interviews as an expert in the field of investigations.
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