Across the country, the threat of identity theft continues to climb, this white collar crime continues to plague Canadian consumers, and while it has a direct impact on your wallet, its not just about the money anymore. From using your medical benefits to enable illegal immigration to more insidious crimes, identity fraud criminals are continually inventing new ways to use stolen information.
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing means of stealing money and other important information from complete and innocent strangers. The non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center, defines it as being “sub-divided into four categories: Financial Identity Theft (using another’s name and SSN to obtain goods and services), Criminal Identity Theft (posing as another when apprehended for a crime), Identity Cloning (using another’s information to assume his or her identity in daily life) and Business/Commercial Identity Theft (using another’s business name to obtain credit).”
Although Identity theft is quickly becoming much harder to achieve, there are still those who are seeking out a way to steal another person’s identity. Being diligent and understanding how identity thieves operate will go along way towards ensuring that you do not fall victim to this crime.
Identities theft works in a variety of ways. The most common is through appropriation of credit cards or their details. It is easier to steal someone’s identity through a credit card that through other means since there are no pictures attached for photo identification.
Often, thieves steal information from your credit cards through receipts that are thrown away in the trash, as well as retrieving the information from people’s mailboxes. Once the thief has the information that is needed, which typically includes the credit card number, the security number for the credit card, and an individual’s home address, birth date, and possibly even driver’s license number, they are well on their way to stealing and charging funds that do not belong to them.
If you receive bills for merchandise/services you didn’t buy, or get a call from a merchant complaining about a bill you didn’t pay for something you didn’t order, you’re very probably facing identity theft. Here’s the process you should follow. Note: You might also wish to read the FTC’s webpage (ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft) on this topic.
First, get as much information as you can from the merchant, such as when the purchase took place, type of credit used (credit line or credit card), account number, monetary amount, where the bills were sent, and if a credit application was filled out (if so, get a copy of it). Explain to the merchant that you’ve been a victim of identity theft – always use that term, “identity theft” – and request that he not report the bill to the credit bureau in your name.