As you know from last week, March is National Fraud Prevention month. Today, we want to talk about one of the most common and insidious types of fraud in North America today – identity theft. The term "identiy theft” refers to criminals acquiring personal information about someone else for the purpose of committing fraud using that info. This can cover a whole range of activities, from cleaning out personal bank accounts, making illicit purchases made on another person's credit card, to acquiring rental property under a stolen name and leaving them accountable for any bills or damages. It's bad news whatever way you cut it.
For the victim of an identify theft scam it can be a living nightmare trying to deal with the fallout. Responding to a suspected identity theft situation immediately is crucial to limiting the potential damage done to your finances and name.
If you start to receive bills for purchases you don't recognize, or anything else seems amiss with your personal accounts, mail, or services, contact your financial institution immediately. Have them cancel your credit cards and reissue new ones. If you don't report a stolen or lost card, or the possible use of stolen card info, you may be held liable for purchases made with it.
After that, contact your local police and file a report. Be sure to save the report number so you can refer to it later.
You should also acquire a copy of your credit report by contacting Equifax Canada or Trans Union Canada. If you see anything that surprises or alarms you on the report, you can discuss placing a fraud alert on your file so further misuse can be monitored and tracked, increasing the likelihood that the thieves using your card may be identified.
Keep detailed records of the process
Write down the details of any irregularities in your accounts, any questionable phone calls, or other suspicious activities. Keeping notes about any possible fraudulent activity will help protect you from expenses and aid in any investigation into the issue.
You should also write down who you have reported the issue to, who you have talked to, and any kind of case or report number you've been given. This will help later if you are speaking to another person and need to refer them to your case.
Keep these records as well. Even when the issue seems settled, it is a good idea to hang on to your notes in case any further problems crop up. Identity theft is an insidious type of criminal activity - sophisticated scam artists can be subtle with their actions, or wait for months to use personal information they've collected to avoid suspicion. It's important to be vigilant.
Making the process easier
Identity theft is a scary thing. It can lead you into conflicts with your bank, sudden credit charges, and other problems. But it isn't a situation you have to face alone. With proper personal insurance and protection against identity theft, you can have the help you need when you need it the most. Talk to a Staebler broker today about identity theft insurance and learn your options.