If we pause and think, there are many activities we do in a course of a day where we put our personal information at risk- from writing a cheque to charging an item in person or on the phone. You and I may not think twice about these transactions, but someone trying to steal your identity would.
Did you know that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in North America?! According to an inspection done by the US Postal Service in 2004, there were over 10 million cases of identity theft in one year alone. 10 million…isn’t that crazy? Gosh I would hate to hear what the numbers are now in 2011.
If you want to protect yourself and your family, try the following tips:
- Don’t give anyone your personal information unless you know the person or company you are dealing with.
- Never disclose your personal information such as a bank account number in an email. Any reputable business will not ask you to do this.
- Don’t disclose your credit card number to an online vendor unless it is encrypted and the site is secure. If you are not sure, check to see if the first part of the website address reads “https”.
- Don’t ever write your Social Insurance Number or telephone number on cheques or credit card receipts.
- If you are getting rid of your computer, make sure to remove all of the documents with personal information from the hard drive before you give it away. Use this same principle if you ever have to send your computer away to get repaired. You can always reload the information on it once it is returned.
- Shred any documents that have your name and address on them. Things like pre-approvals for credit card ads are the worst for enabling a crook to steal your identity. Remember, whatever you throw in the trash bin is accessible if someone wants it to be.
- Cancel all of the credit cards that you have not used in the last 6 months. Open and unused credit accounts are a prime target for crooks. Some people don’t even notice if something is wrong since their use of the account is limited.
- Check your credit report regularly. Once or twice a year is a good rule of thumb. By reviewing your credit report you will be able to see if their are any mistakes or fraudulent activities that need to be reported and corrected.
You see, it really isn’t that hard for someone to steal your identity if you’re not careful.
Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? How did you handle the situation? If you haven’t been a victim, what do you do to protect yourself?
As someone who recently had their identity exposed (stolen PC, wallet) I learned that if you do have your SIN or SSN compromised you can call Trans Union and Equifax and have them put a “freeze” on credit applications using your SIN # for a period of 6 years. You give them a phone number where someone has to answer the call and approve the credit request. No answer/confirmation, no credit approval.
Equifax is charging me $7 while TU is free.
A handy service.
@ SPF That is really handy. I didn’t know those companies offered that. Thanks for sharing the tip. Sorry to hear that you have had to deal with this though. At least you know the credit companies are looking after you.
This was a very helpful post. You’re absolutely right about how easy it is to get your identity stolen these days. Thanks for posting the list of preventative measures. 🙂
@SustainablePF: Thanks for the additional information. I had no idea you could do that. I mean, it makes sense, but I never would have thought of it.
@ You’re welcome. Ya, I didn’t know about having the credit agencies help monitor you. I think that’s an awesome resource to be able to tap into.
I once had my credit card number stolen in a transmission shop. The customer after me evidently couldn’t afford to pay for his tranmission repair, so he asked to use the phone in the office. Then, he wrote down my credit card number from the receipt and gave it to them to pay for his transmission.
It was a nightmare to straighten this all out. I had to make a police report and fill out notarized affidavits. Luckily, I was finally credited back for the fraudulent charges.
@ Bret Yeesh. Some people have some nerve hey?! It makes you not even want to use a credit card. At least the credit card companies are pretty decent when it comes to fraud protection. I had unknown charges show up on my mastercard a couple years back. I phoned the credit card company and told them I didn’t charge those items. They looked into it and I received a credit on my account. What I worry about sometimes is how to prove some of these situations. In your case I am sure it was difficult. Luckily it all worked out.
I would recommend bill pay for anyone not using it. Forget sending checks in the mail, that’s just asking for it these days. If anyone gets a hold of one, they not only have your signature but also your address and account number. Plus it’s pretty easy to wash a check to eliminate all the ink you put on it.
@ The Prudent Planner You are totally right. Electronic payments are definitely safer than paper. I forgot about the cheque washing tactic. It amazes me that people would actually work that hard to steal.