If you’ve ever had a wallet stolen you know what a headache it is. There was a time it was mostly just a massive inconvenience, but once you cancelled all your credit and bank cards and were issued new ones things went back to normal. But in our digital age that’s no longer the case. Thieves can now steal your identity and your credit rating causing trouble for months, years – even longer. And, for reasons unknown, Canadians are a favourite target for some of the international scam artists – syndicated fraud rings that move from country to country with lightning speed.
There are obvious precautions to take, such as never sharing and protecting your PINS for any of your accounts. Here are some other precautions to protect yourself against identity theft:
-When ordering cheques use only your initials plus your surname. Thieves will not know if you sign using your full first and/or middle name – but your bank knows. Also, do not use your home address or phone number, use a p.o. box or your work address and phone number instead – or none at all.
-Never write out your entire credit card number in the “for” line when paying the account with a cheque. Use “x’s”, then only the last four numbers for a reference.
-Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead write “Photo ID Required“. You’ll have to produce it when using the card but then so would a thief. Less often than you might think unfortunately, its surprising how many retailers never check the back of your card.
-Take a photocopy of all your ID, credit and bank cards in your wallet. Do BOTH FRONT AND BACK. Keep it in a safe place. Scan a copy and keep it digitally. Repeat this once a year or when you add or remove cards from your usage. If stolen you’ll know exactly what is gone and more importantly - have all the toll-free numbers to cancel them at your fingertips.
-Photocopy your passport and do the same. Keep a digital copy and a hard copy with you when you’re travelling. If its ever stolen while travelling you can still prove who you are and alert the proper authorities more easily.
-If your wallet is stolen, your first action is two-pronged: cancel all the cards, then immediately call Canada’s two credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your name and Social Insurance Number. That way any company that recieves a credit application in your name knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone. They are EQUIFAX CANADA 1-877-249-2705 and TransUnion 1-877-525-3823.
- Secondly, immediately file a police report in the jurisdiction where the theft occurred. This proves due diligence on your part and is the first step if an investigation proceeds.
Also, consider subscribing to an identity monitoring service. They update you on your credit status, usually once a month. And you are immediately notified if anyone tries to access your credit report or if anyone applies for credit in your name. There are several to choose from, I use Credit Alert http://www.alertservice.ca/Pages/home.aspx
There is also great information on the ServiceAlberta site: http://www.servicealberta.ca/560.cfm
And the Government of Canada site: http://cmcweb.ca/eic/site/cmc-cmc.nsf/eng/fe00078.html
I hope you never have to follow through with any of this stuff. It’s like insurance – you never need it ’til you need it. And then you REALLY need it.