Identity Theft

Thieves Today Don’t Need Bolt Cutters or Crowbars To Rob Us

They just need a few simple identity items such as a SIN number and driver’s license which can be used in more convenient ways to steal your money.

Low risk with high rewards

This is what Identity Theft offers the criminal who chooses to commit this form of crime.

Don’t make yourself an easy target for identity thieves.

Please read this brochure for tips on reducing your chances of becoming a statistic, and how Portage Mutual wants to help should you become a victim of one of the fastest growing crime trends... Identity Theft.

What is Identity Theft?

Basically, Identity Theft occurs when someone uses personal information such as a SIN number or driver’s license without your permission and goes on to perform financial activities in your name.

Criminals are actively and creatively pursuing many avenues by which to obtain pieces of your identity. In today’s financial world of transaction convenience, it has become all too easy for criminals to acquire your personal information. They may try low-tech methods such as taking mail that you have put in the trash/recycling or try hi-tech methods such as creating replicas of legitimate business websites to lure you to input your personal information. They may go as far as to seek out employees within a company through whom they can readily gain access to customers’ personal information.

Information thieves want:

  • social insurance number (SIN)
  • driver’s license number
  • name, address, phone number
  • birth certificates
  • credit card numbers and/or statements
  • bank account number and/or statements
  • instant teller card pin number
  • passport
  • health cards
  • copy of your cheque or cancelled cheque
  • copies of any bill notices
  • pre-approved credit card applications

Where and how they may harvest your personal information:

  • residential or commercial garbage/recycling bins
  • redirecting your mail
  • mail boxes
  • utilize a chemical wash to erase information on your cheque and then input their own
  • “Skimming” devices where a thief steals the account information from your credit or bank card by double swiping it, once in a legitimate card swipe reader and once in the thief’s reader
  • “Phishing”, a scam where thieves have duped consumers into entering personal information on their computer; this could take the form of creating a bogus copy of a legitimate website or by sending you an unsolicited e-mail that asks you to reply by inputting your personal information
  • the theft of wallets or purses
  • hotel key cards
  • hacking into retail databases
  • from your home, your car, or from where you work

What could a criminal do with my personal information?

A criminal could fraudulently,

  • access financial accounts;
  • open new credit card accounts;
  • obtain a loan in your name;
  • open a bank account;
  • obtain credit reports;
  • open a utility account;
  • obtain a cell phone;
  • rent an apartment;
  • take out a mortgage in your name;
  • purchase merchandise online or by phone.

What can I do to protect myself?

You cannot entirely prevent Identity Theft, but you can lower your chances of becoming a target of this crime. Should you become a victim, you can minimize the damage through early detection. Look at putting time into protection as a good excuse to get more organized with your daily finances.

To help lower the chances of becoming a victim of Identity Theft:

  • Keep your receipts and regularly compare them to your monthly statements. Immediately report any charge on your bank or credit card statement that you don’t recognize.
  • Purchase a shredder (cross cut model if possible) and run through all personal documents that you are planning to put into the garbage or recycling especially bank/credit card receipts and statements, pay cheque stubs, tax information, bills, anything with your address or SIN number.
  • When writing a cheque, use a heavy dark ink and fill out the entire areas to help prevent manipulation of your cheque.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone, mail system, or internet unless you initiated the contact and are certain the organization is legitimate. Legitimate companies should respect the fact that you may not want to disclose your information.
  • Do not use a cellular or cordless phone to do your telephone banking.
  • Never respond to requests from companies asking to verify your account information.
  • Be protective of your e-mail address as once you give it out, it can be circulated.
  • Keep your SIN, birth certificate, and passports stored in a secure place until needed.
  • Dispose of hotel key cards or have them erased by the hotel at checkout time as they may contain your personal information.
  • When using ATM/bank machines, shield your PIN number with your free hand or body as thieves will resort to “shoulder surfing” to observe your PIN number and may even resort to video cameras or binoculars.
  • Never write your PIN numbers down and do not select a PIN based on personal information.
  • Never leave personal information visible around the house. Keep it secured if possible.
  • Utilize a financial institution safety deposit box to safely store stocks, bonds, or other securities you have purchased.
  • Don’t leave personal information lying around at home, in your car, or at your work.
  • Keep a list of the names, account numbers, and the expiration dates of all credit cards and other documents kept in your wallet.
  • Do not open e-mails from an address you don’t recognize as thieves want to trick internet users into sending password and personal, or financial data (aka Phishing). This includes sending e-mails that appear normal or creating fraudulent websites that imitate legitimate ones (aka Brand Spoofing). The thieves are trying to obtain personal information to commit fraud. Infected e-mails may also contain malicious software that could install a “Keylogger” on your computer. A keylogger will track the keystrokes you make, thus possibly providing details of your personal information.
  • Inquire about installing anti-virus software, legitimate spyware filters, e-mail filters, and firewall programs to combat computer fraud.
  • Create a secondary disposable e-mail address such as an account from a free e-mail service if you like to enter contests or sweepstakes online or at trade show draws for example. Leave your main e-mail account for secure transactions used for business, family, and friends.

Telltale signs that your identity may have been compromised

Identity thieves may test the waters with small transactions at first to see what they may be able to get away with before trying full scale identity abuse. Become hyper-aware of your personal financial & household management.

  • You are declined for a loan that you normally would be approved for or were offered surprisingly less favorable credit terms such as higher than average interest rates.
  • A collection agency is trying to collect funds from you for a defaulted account secured with your identity in which you never applied for.
  • You notice that your credit card/bank card or other mail items have not been arriving.
  • You receive credit card statements or other bills for which you did not apply for.
  • You receive calls or letters advising you that you have been approved or denied by a creditor that you never have applied to.
  • You are informed that an application for credit has been received which you did not apply for.
  • Your bank or credit card statements show unauthorized transactions.
  • A store refuses your cheques because they say you have a history of bouncing them when you know there should be enough funds to cover the cheque.

How Portage Mutual can help you once Identity Fraud has occurred

In most instances, Identity Theft victims won’t be liable for the money stolen in their name once the fraud departments at the various credit card companies, banks, or other financial institutions establish that a fraud has occurred against the victim. *Always check the agreements provided by these institutions for their policy on such matters. However, we will reimburse you for costs incurred directly and solely as a result of the fraudulent use of your identity up to a policy term limit.

Such costs as:

  • fees for telephone, loan reapplication, notarization of documents, certified mail
  • loss of earnings as a result of unpaid time off work
  • reasonable fees for hiring a lawyer for your defense in suits brought against you, for removal of judgments wrongly entered against you, or for any challenge to the information found in your consumer credit report

*Contact your Independent Insurance Broker for more detailed information and a complete copy of the Identity Fraud Expense Coverage wording.

Steps to follow should you become a victim of Identity Theft

Please keep a log of your calls and expenses including the dates, times, and specific people spoken to while taking the following steps:

  • Immediately make a police report and obtain a copy of it.
  • Immediately report the claim to your broker so an adjuster can be assigned.
  • Cancel your ATM and credit cards and have new ones issued.
  • Check with your bank’s fraud department to see if your accounts have been tampered with in any way.
  • Close your bank accounts and open new ones. Ask for passwords for these accounts.
  • Contact Canada’s two main credit bureaus. These agencies gather credit information about you and store it for use by members of the reporting agencies. Some examples of members include banks, finance companies, auto leasing companies, credit card companies, retailers, etc. Request that a fraud alert be placed on your files and order a copy of your credit report to check for false information. Order another report 3 months later to verify information again.
  • Contact Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
    Phone: 1-888-495-8501
    This is a national anti-fraud call centre operated by the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies. They collect information on Identity Theft complaints, telemarketing and fraud letters, and can assist law enforcement agencies in possible investigations. If you suspect that you may be a target of fraud, or if you have already sent funds, don’t be embarrassed - you’re not alone. If you want to report a fraud, or if you need more information, contact The Canadian Anti- Fraud Centre. This helps you notify financial institutions, credit card issuers as well as other companies that the Identity Theft occurred and that the debt charges were not created by you.
  • In case of passport theft, contact the Passport Canada Office.
    Phone: 1-800-567-6868
    Outside Canada/USA: 1-819-997-8338
    Mail to: Passport Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
    Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0G3
  • If you suspect your mail is being diverted, contact Canada Post.
    Phone: 1-866-607-6301
    Outside Canada: 1-416-979-8822
  • If you suspect that your SIN has been compromised or lost, contact Human Resources and Social Development Canada.
    Phone: 1-800-206-7218
    Outside Canada: 1-506-548-7961
    Mail to: Social Insurance Registration
    P.O. Box 7000, Bathurst, New Brunswick, E2A 4T1
  • Advise your telephone, cable, and utility companies that someone may try to open new accounts in your name.

It was only a matter of time before criminals would learn how to take advantage of our culture of financial convenience.

With just a few pieces of your identification, a criminal can become an imposter and spend your hard earned money on themselves, leaving you with the daunting task of trying to clear your name with various companies and credit bureaus.

Should you become a target of the fast growing crime trend of Identity Theft, Portage Mutual can help by paying for expenses associated with restoring your identity.