Theft of your personal information - also called identity crime - can happen very easily and in ways not suspected. Victims often have no direct contact with the identity thieves and theft happens as they go about their everyday routine. An identity thief may misappropriate mail, pilfer sensitive information from garbage (dumpster-diving), steal a laptop computer, take personal information from a social networking profile, trick consumers into clicking a malware infected link through a phishing attack (see Phishing) or hack into large databases of personal information that private companies and government agencies maintain.
If you're a victim of identity theft, please see how to report identity theft. Protect yourself - find out more about other online safety concerns.
Protecting yourself from identity theft
Reduce your risk of becoming an identity theft victim through these tips:
- Remove mail from your mailbox immediately, and if you're moving, complete a change of address form with Canada Post. Pay attention to billing cycles and follow up with your creditors and utility companies if mails such as bills or statements do not arrive on time.
- Shred any sensitive, confidential and financial information before disposing of it in the garbage.
- Report lost or stolen debit and credit cards immediately and contact your credit card company if you have not received your reissued credit card within one month of the old credit card expiring. Sign the back of your credit card in permanent ink.
- Limit the amount of personal documentation you carry in your wallet or purse. Carry only the identification and credit cards you need when traveling, whether locally or abroad. Keep your passport, birth certificate in a safe location at all times. Memorize your social insurance number so that you do not need to carry it with you.
Protecting your personal information
Be very careful about revealing personal information to untrusted sources. These tips may help:
- Don't give our personal information to unverified sources at the door, on the phone or on the Internet unless you are the one who initiated the contact using a trusted contact address or number and know the person or organization with whom you are dealing.
- Protect your personal identification number (PIN) when entering the number on a keypad at a bank machine or any financial transfer machine. Don't share it with anyone and make sure you change your PIN on a regular basis.Password-protect your mobile device.
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call List to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive.
- Conduct a yearly review of your credit bureau report to ensure all credit information is correct and up to date.
Computer safety tips
If you're not careful, hackers can gain access to sensitive and important personal information that you store on your computer or websites.
- Watch for phishing attempts and avoid clicking on unverified links in emails.
- Be selective with your primary email address and provide it only to trusted sources. Use a secondary email address for more public facilitated online activity such as for subscriptions, contests or surveys.
- Have your computer's hard drive professionally wiped clean or remove your hard drive from your computer prior to selling, pawning, donating or disposing of the computer, laptop or mobile device.
- Protect your wireless network from eavesdropping, hacking and freeloading by enabling your WPA or WPA2 encryption, using a strong password and ensuring you install and/or update anti-virus and personal firewall software.
- When shopping or exchanging personally identifiable information on the Internet ensure you are using SSL which is denoted by the "https://" and a padlock that should be present on the page you are using.
- Check your privacy settings on a regular basis on social networking websites to ensure that photographs, personal data and postings are not available to the public. Limit the amount of personal information shared on social networking websites (see Social Networking section).
The following links provide further information on identity crime and theft:
- Service Canada offers single-window access to a wide range of Government of Canada programs and services for citizens through more than 600 points of service located across the country, call centres, and the Internet.
- Service Alberta investigates consumer complaints and enforces consumer protection legislation, license and register regulated businesses and charitable organizations.
- The Canadian Bankers Association provides payment card fraud prevention advice. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free at 1-800-263-0231.