What is identity theft?
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) define identity theft as the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else's personal information for criminal purposes.
What is identity fraud?
The RCMP define identity fraud is the actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person (living or dead) in connection with various frauds (including for example impersonating another person or the misuse of debit card data or credit card data).
Types of information sought by identity thieves
Identity thieves are looking for the following information:
- full name
- date of birth
- Social Insurance Number
- full address
- mother's maiden name
- username and password for online services
- driver's license number
- personal identification number (PIN)
- credit card information (card number, expiry date and the last three digits printed on the signature panel)
- bank account number
- passport number
How identity thieves use your personal information
Criminals can use your stolen or reproduced personal or financial information to:
- access your bank accounts
- open new bank accounts
- transfer bank balances
- apply for loans, credit cards and other goods and services
- make purchases
- hide their criminal activities
- obtain passports or receive government benefits
How you can find out if your identity has been stolen
The best way to find out if someone is using your personal information is to monitor your hard-copy or on-line financial account statements frequently (every three months or so) and to check your credit report regularly (once a year) for any unusual activities. If you receive calls from collection agencies about unfamiliar accounts, or if you applied for credit and were unexpectedly turned down, you should investigate further.
If you suspect or know that you are a victim of identity theft or fraud, or if you unwittingly provided personal information or financial information:
- Step 1 - Contact your local police force and file a report.
- Step 2 - Contact your bank/financial institution and credit card company
- Step 3 - Contact the two national credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit reports. The two national credit bureaus are:
- Step 4 - Always report identity theft and fraud. To do so, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Put a stop to it
The best way to put a stop to identify fraud is to take steps to prevent the theft and misuse of your personal information, which you can do by observing the following practices:
- Identity theft can occur over the Internet or telephone, or via fax or regular mail. Therefore, be particularly wary of unsolicited e-mails, telephone calls or mail attempting to extract personal or financial information from you.
- Ask yourself if you really need all of the identity documents you carry in your wallet or purse. Remove any you do not need and keep them in a secure place instead.
- Periodically check your credit reports, bank and credit card statements and report any irregularities promptly to the relevant financial institution and to the credit bureaus.
- During transactions, it's safer to swipe your cards yourself than it is to allow a cashier to do it for you. If you must hand over your card, never lose sight of it.
- Always shield your personal identification number when using an ATM or a PIN pad.
- Memorize all personal identification numbers for payment cards and telephone calling cards. Never write them on the cards.
- Familiarize yourself with billing cycles for your credit and debit cards.
- Trash bins are a goldmine for identity thieves. Make sure you shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage.
- When you change your address, make sure you notify the post office and all relevant financial institutions (your bank and credit card companies).
What should I do if I become a victim?
If you are victim of identity theft or identity fraud, you should immediately take some basic steps to prevent further crimes from happening and to restore your credit and good name.
Because navigating through the system as a victim can be time-consuming and confusing, the RCMP developed the following guidance to help start you off in the right direction:
1. Collect your thoughts
Stay calm. Make a list of all the identification information that was lost or stolen. Check your filing cabinet for records of credit card numbers, bank account information and government identification. Create a chart to enter and track the steps taken and the information provided.
2. Track all communications
As you contact law enforcement, financial institution and other agencies, keep track of the action you've taken for future reference.
Obtain a copy of your credit report
Contact both major credit bureaus and let them know you have been a victim of identity fraud:
Request a copy of your credit bureau report – in certain instances, this report may be free of charge.
Request that a "Fraud Warning" be placed on your credit file instructing creditors to contact you personally before opening new accounts in your name - these warnings remain on file for six (6) years. Remember to contact and file fraud warnings with both Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada.
3. Review your credit reports
Be wary of creditors who have opened accounts that you didn't request, or creditors who have made inquiries on your credit report when you didn't ask for credit. Contact each of these creditors and describe your identity theft case. Ask them to:
- Close any accounts you didn't open
- Decline any new accounts you didn't request
4. Contact your local police
Report the theft of your identification information to your local police force. Ensure that you are given a report number and record it for future reference. Banks and creditors sometimes need proof of the crime to erase debts created by identity theft. Please note, it is not the police force's responsibility to recover money you've lost. Their function is to investigate criminal offences and lay charges when appropriate. Suspicious information found on your credit bureau report should be disclosed to the police.
5. Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC)
Report the theft or fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center by going to their website or by dialing 1-888-495-8501. The CACF is the central agency in Canada that collects information and criminal intelligence on all forms of mass marketing fraud, including advance fee fraud letters (e.g. West African fraud letters), Internet fraud, identity theft complaints and others. The CAFC does not conduct investigations but provides valuable assistance to law enforcement agencies all over the world by identifying connections among seemingly unrelated cases. Your information may provide the piece that completes the puzzle. For more information, please visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
6. Review all of your bank and credit card statements
If you notice suspicious transactions on your credit card or bank statements, immediately contact the creditor or bank and file an Identity Theft Statement. The Identity Theft Statement will help you notify financial institutions, credit card issuers and other companies of your identity theft. It will tell them that you did not create the debt or charges in question and will give them the information they need to begin an investigation. Make as many copies of the Statement as you will need to notify all involved companies. The Identity Theft Statement can be accessed via the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. To print a copy, visit their website.
7. Notify credit card companies, banks and other financial institution and change all of your passwords
Call all credit card companies, creditors, banks and other financial institutions where you have accounts that may have been affected. Because it is vital to prevent any additional fraud from occurring, ask these institutions to help you to take the following steps:
- Close every account that might have been compromised. Request that it be processed as "closed at the consumer's request".
- Obtain replacement bank or credit card with a new account number and a new Personal Identification Number (PIN).
- Put a "stop payment" on any stolen cheques.
- Ask to have a password added to your account.
8. Notify Canada Post and utility and service providers
If you suspect that someone had your mail re-directed, notify Canada Post. Notify your service provider (telephone, cell phone, electricity, water, gas, etc.) of the identity fraud. Ask that any new requests for service first be confirmed with you.
9. Notify federal identity document issuing agencies
9.1 Immigration documents
The department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is responsible for the admission of immigrants, foreign students, visitors and temporary workers who help Canada's social and economic growth.
If your immigration documents have been lost or stolen, or if you suspect that someone is fraudulently using your immigration documents, please contact the CIC.
Toll free: 1-888-242-2100
TTY services: 1-888-576-8502
A Canadian passport is a valuable document that should be kept in a safe place at all times. Once a passport has been reported lost or stolen, it is no longer valid and cannot be used for travel. This ensures that it is not used for fraudulent purposes. If a passport is lost or stolen, the bearer is required to report the circumstances of the loss or theft to Passport Canada and to the local police. If you are outside Canada, you must report the loss or theft to the nearest Canadian government office abroad.
However, before the document can be replaced, Canadian authorities will conduct an investigation of the circumstances of the loss or theft. This may lead to delays in processing the replacement passport. Contact Passport Canada:
- By phone
Toll free: 1-800-567-6868
TTY services: 1-866-255-7655
Outside Canada and the United States: 819-997-8338
- In writing
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Gatineau QC K1A 0G3
- By courier
22 de Varennes Street
Gatineau QC J8T 8R1
9.3 Social Insurance Card
If you suspect someone is using your Social Insurance Number (SIN) you should visit a Service Canada Centre and bring all necessary documents with you to prove fraud or misuse of your SIN. Also, bring an original identity document (your birth certificate or citizenship document). An official will review your information and provide you with assistance and guidance. Contact Service Canada:
- By phone
Toll-Free: 1 800 O-Canada (1 800 622-6232)
TTY: 1 800 926-9105
- By mail
Att. Canada Enquiry Centre
10. Notify provincial / territorial identity document issuing agencies
If some of your provincial or territorial identity documents have been lost or stolen, or if you believe someone is fraudulently using this information, you should immediately contact the appropriate issuer to advise them of the situation. Provincial and territorial identification documents include your birth certificate, driver's license, health card and more. Information related to provincial and territorial identification card issuers can be found on the following websites:
Newfoundland and Labrador
Tel.: (709) 729-2600
Toll Free: 1-800-670-4357
Prince Edward Island
Tel.: (902) 368-4000
Toll Free: 1-888-762-8600
Toll Free: 1-800-363-1363
Toll Free: 1-800-267-8097
TTY Toll-free: 1-800-268-7095
Toll free: 1-866-626-4862
Toll Free: 310-0000
TTY Toll Free: 1-800-232-7215
Toll Free: 1-800-663-7867
TTY Toll-free: 1-800-661-8773
Toll free: 1-800-661-0408
TTY: (867) 393-7460
Tel.: (867) 873-7817
Tel.: (867) 975-6000