I often leave my purse open while shopping and I’ve misplaced my wallet more times then I’d like to admit. I’m pretty trusting by nature so when I hear about identity theft I always think about it happening to someone else. Did you know that more than 13,700 Canadians were victims of identity theft in 2014?
Here’s how it might happen:
- Stealing your mail – if you don’t have a locked mailbox, thieves can take your mail directly from the box. Prevent this by opening a postal box or if your mailbox is attached to your house, check it daily. When you’re on holidays, ask a neighbor to pick up your mail
- Digging in your trash – prevent this by shredding your documents. Home shredders are pretty inexpensive these days or you can hire companies to shred documents for you
- Skimming ATM and credit cards – thieves can use counterfeit card readers and hidden cameras to steal information. Try to avoid non-bank ATMs and monitor your accounts
- Searching through public sources – social media can be used by thieves to swipe personal information. Adjust your privacy settings to include only those people you know
If you’re the victim of identity theft what should you do?
- Report it to the police
- Document everything (phone calls, emails pertaining to the incident. A paper trail is always a good idea)
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports
- Review your credit report (look for unauthorized charges or new credit lines)
- Contact your creditors, financial institutions, utilities and services to let them know
There are some common e-mail and phone scams that you should be aware of. Some of the most common include the following:
- Services – false or misleading offers for services (utilities, internet etc.)
- Prizes – this is one of the oldest scams (you’ve been told you’ve won a prize but must pay a fee to process your claim to it)
- Extortion – someone saying your have unpaid debts and threatening arrest
- Merchandise – purchasing items online or though classified ads and not receiving them
- Phishing – being asked by someone who claims to be from a legitimate company or organization that wants personal information (Canada Revenue Agency etc…)
It’s important to note that many seniors fall victims to these scams and they’re the most targeted group!
Finally, there are some tips to avoid being a victim of a scam. Be wary of claims that require immediate action as well as offers that require you to wire money. Finally, trust your gut. If you feel something is wrong or an offer sounds too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true!