Identity theft is an intricate crime, but its cause is very simple: Ignorance, Lack of Awareness and easy availability of vulnerable information.
According to a recent study conducted by Equifax Canada, attempts of credit card fraud have increased by 42 percent over the last two years. Suspected true name fraud (when an identity thief poses as a real person in completing a credit application) has also increased by 84 percent over the last five years. In 2018, millennials were targeted in 48 percent of all fraudulent credit card applications.
The damage caused by Identity theft is widespread, and according to survey results, nearly four out of 10 Canadians are victims of it in one form or another. In order to take preventive measures, it is important to understand the various types of identity theft. They include:
Financial Identity Theft: Is when personal information from lost credit cards or financial statements is stolen to commit crimes such as opening fake chequing accounts, applying for loans, mortgages and other financial frauds.
Insurance Identity Theft: Is a medical identity or financial fraud where stolen personal information is used to issue fake medical, car, travel or home insurance.
Medical Identity Theft: Is a crucial and fast-growing threat in Canada. Your personal health insurance information can be used to steal medical care, drugs and services. According to a study conducted by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, stolen health care information is 10 times more valuable than stolen financial data because it is difficult to track and can be misused on a wider scale.
Criminal Identity Theft: Is when the identity thief uses someone else’s personal information to commit crimes.
Identification Document Theft: Is when your driver’s license or your SIN number is misused by thieves for financial gains and criminal pursuits.
Synthetic Identity Theft: Is a complex web where thieves utilize information of multiple victims to formulate a synthetic identity.
Child Identity Theft: These cases mostly occur within a close knit circle of friends and family. Hence, they often go unreported.
Here’s few easy steps you can take to avoid identity theft:
- Frequently review all credit and debit card accounts
- Use passwords that are more complex and preferably not derived from your personal information
- Avoid letting your mail stay in the letterbox for too long. View the contents and shred them immediately
- Review your Medical Claims frequently.
- Protect your devices from viruses, malware and spyware
- Do not share personal information via email or phone
Awareness is always the first step towards prevention, and acting on this information will make you a difficult - and therefore less likely - target for identity theft.