Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes and affects millions of Canadians every year. Protecting your personal information to avoid becoming another victim of identity theft requires education and awareness. The problem with identity theft is that victims are often unaware of the theft until it’s too late. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for identity theft red flags.
In recent days identity theft has become very top of mind for many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, given our local health care cyber attack. But, the truth is, regardless of the recent data breach, you should always be aware of possible identity theft and that’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for the common signs that you may be a victim of identity theft.
Here are 5 common signs that could alert you to possible identity theft and the actions you should take to protect yourself:
- Your bank statement doesn’t look right or your checks bounce.
Even a small discrepancy on your bank account summary could be a red flag or sign that you’re a victim of financial identity theft. Check your accounts regularly and contact your bank immediately if you notice any unfamiliar withdrawals or suspicious charges. If someone has unauthorized access to your bank account, you should alert your bank as soon as possible.
- You see unfamiliar and unauthorized activity on your credit card.
Another sign that you may be a victim of identity theft is suspicious activity on your credit card statement. Cyber criminals will often make a number of small charges, often less than two dollars, to test a card before making a larger transaction. If you see these unknown charges regardless of the amount, or if you suspect that someone has stolen your credit card number, contact the merchant and card issuer to let them know about the fraudulent charges. Ask the card issuer to cancel your card and reissue a new one.
- Your bills are missing.
Sometimes cyber criminals will intercept their victim’s mail by changing the mailing address with some credit card issuers or vendors. If your bills don’t arrive at the regular time, this may be a warning sign of identity theft. Criminals can then gather information from your mail and piece it together to open new accounts in your name.
- You start receiving unfamiliar bills.
In addition to obtaining credit cards in your name, identity thieves may fraudulently use your personal information to purchase goods in your name, upgrade services on existing accounts for their own use, or open new accounts. You may not find out about this until an unpaid account appears on your credit report or you get a bill or statement in the mail. This is a big warning sign of identity theft.
- You receive calls from debt collectors.
If your identity is stolen, it is possible for the cyber criminal to use your name and personal information to make purchases and rack up debts. If you begin to receive calls from creditors asking about unpaid bills you don’t recognize, this is another warning sign of possible identity theft.
If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, contact your bank or credit card issuer right away. Your bank will take the appropriate actions to help prevent future fraud on your accounts and help you reverse charges that have been made fraudulently. These steps could include cancelling and reissuing credit or debit cards, investigating and reversing fraudulent transactions and providing further advice to help protect your finances.
Whether identity thieves acquire your personal information through a data breach or other tactics, once they have your personal information, your identity, finances, and reputation could be at risk. Sometimes, people who have had their identity stolen are not immediately aware that this has happened. They don’t see any signs. It’s possible for months or years to pass without knowing that someone is harming your credit or financial reputation. Cleaning up the mess an identity thief leaves behind can be difficult and expensive, so spotting these warning signs early by monitoring your accounts, bills, and credit reports can help protect your identity and finances.
Most insurance companies offer identity theft protection, in the form of an added endorsement to your home/tenant/condo/property policy. Your insurance broker can help you understand the coverage and determine if it is right for you. The endorsement will provide compensation for identity theft related expenses such as: recouping financial loss due to confirmed identity theft, reimbursement of the costs associated with the restoration of your identity, and credit alert service provided after a covered claim. The cost for this coverage is often very low, $25-$30 annually or $2 to $3 per month.
If you would like more information on how we can help, please contact Munn Insurance toll free at 1-855-726-8627 or you can visit the Canadian Anti- Fraud Centre at https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm for more information.