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Tips for newcomers: Prevent identity theft

When it comes to identity theft, prevention is the key. Be very careful about disclosing personal information, unless you have initiated the contact.

Always protect your important documents and passwords, and be sure to shred discarded items bearing your private information. Watch your bills and statements for unusual transactions.

In spite of your best efforts, however, identity theft can happen. If you are a victim, contact the police and your financial institutions as soon as possible. Quick action on your part can help you avoid liability for fraudulent debts incurred in your name. 

Here are some tips on what to do if you are a victim of identity theft.

Report the crime to the local police and retain a copy of the police report, which could be useful in documenting what happened,” advises Joseph Barron, Director, Audit, Executive Offices for Scotiabank, in Toronto. “You should also consider calling the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center (CACF) at 1-888-495-8501. This is the national anti-fraud centre, which gathers information and intelligence about identity theft and provides advice and assistance to identity-theft victims. Reporting your situation to CACF could help them prevent similar identity thefts. The CACF website, www.antifraudcentre.ca also has alerts on scams and a list of the top scams.”

Notify your financial institutions. “Call each financial institution, credit card issuer or company as soon as possible to inform them that you have been compromised,” says Barron. “Review all your debits or charges for each account. Tell the bank which ones are not related to you or the ones that look unusual. If there is an unauthorized transaction, inform the institution and complete the necessary paperwork.” Barron suggests you also request new debit and credit cards, adding that most financial institutions will do this automatically once you tell them your cards have been compromised.  

Complete an Identity Theft Statement. “It is helpful to complete an Identity Theft Statement when meeting with an institution,” says Barron. “The form and the instructions are available at the Consumer Measures Committee website at www.cmcweb.ca. You can use this form to notify financial institutions, credit card issuers and other companies that you have become a victim of identity theft. The form provides information to each institution/company that may be needed for an investigation.”

Notify credit reporting agencies. “Call TransUnion Canada and Equifax Canada and inform them you have been compromised,” Barron says. “Have each company send your credit report to you and have a fraud alert placed on your file.” 

Contact other organizations you deal with. “If you suspect someone is using your name or identity with an organization such as a utility company, call the company and tell them,” advises Barron. “If any government-issued documents or identity cards have been lost or stolen, contact each department to report the incident and to have your cards replaced.”
 
– Courtesy: The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario 

Posted: Feb 4, 2014

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