Identity theft involves obtaining or possessing another person’s identity documents with the intention to use them for a false, deceitful, or fraudulent purposes. These purposes could range from forgery to theft to identity fraud, and could severely impact a credit rating, reputation, or leading to the loss of thousands of dollars. The damage could take years to repair.

Identity theft is not a new crime, but it has evolved over the past few decades, expanding its reach through the use of computer technology. Computers are very convenient for communicating, banking, and accessing other websites with the push of a few buttons. However, this convenience has also allowed new forms of identity theft to flourish.

Protection from identity theft is never guaranteed, but these are some recommendations to reduce the risk:

Protect your mail

Mailboxes and garbage cans are treasure troves for identity theft. If you plan to be away from home for an extended period, have a friend or neighbour collect your mail or have Canada Post place a hold on delivery. Electronic delivery is also a great way to reduce your mail and protect against identity theft. Many banks offer the choice of electronic delivery where an email will inform you when bank statements are ready for review online.

Safeguard documents and credit cards

Keep sensitive documents (SIN card, birth certificate, bank records, etc.) in a safe place in your home, or a safe deposit box. All financial documents, and other documents with sensitive material, should be shredded when they are no longer needed. Remove cards from your wallet if they are not used on a regular basis.

Protect your computer

A lot of modern identity theft occurs through computers. Hackers can use software to infiltrate your computer and extract sensitive information. Investing in strong anti-virus software can protect against these threats. Also, be wary of unsolicited emails from financial institutions warning of problems with your account. These are almost certainly scams trying to lure you into entering your login information. If you are concerned about your accounts, contact your bank using the number on the back of your card.

Use complex passwords

Complex passwords (a lengthy jumble of letter, numbers, and symbols) make it much more difficult for identity thieves to access your accounts. Password Vault programs can securely store the log-in details for websites. These programs allow you to use complex passwords for all your online sites while only requiring you to remember the master password to access the vault. Also, consider activating Two-Factor Authorization when available. Two-Factor Authorization requires a second password to access a specific site. This second password can be in a variety of forms, such as a code sent by email or text at the time of login. Anyone attempting to login must have the password and access to the randomized code.

Use an alternate credit card for online purchases

Using a secondary credit card for online purchases can reduce the damage if it is compromised. Keep the limit low and routinely monitor the statements for any irregularities. If the credit card is used fraudulently, your primary card will remain safe for your day-to-day purchases.

Avoid accessing sensitive sites over public WiFi

Public WiFi is not as secure as in your home. Although it is a convenient check for emails while at the airport or in a coffee shop, avoid accessing sensitive sites when using public WiFi unless it is necessary.

If you have been accured of identity theft, contact DDSG Criminal Law today.