When your personal information or identity is stolen, you become a victim of identity theft or identity fraud. Often, criminals will try to use your personal information to access your financial accounts and steal your money.
How does it happen?
You may unknowingly provide your personal information to a fraudster over the phone, via an email or on a fake website that is made to look like a real business.
Your computer may also be infected with a virus program, called malware, that tracks every time you press a key on your computer keyboard, then stores that information and sends it to fraudsters.
Fraudsters may also take or copy personal identification like your birth certificate or Social Insurance Number (SIN) card in an attempt to steal your identity.
How to prevent it
You should take precautions to protect your personal information at home, in public places, on the phone and online.
Never provide your personal information unless you have initiated the communication and trust whom you are communicating with.
Keep your personal information in a secure and safe place.
Never email your personal information.
When online, only use secure websites before transmitting personal information. Look for websites with addresses starting with "https" or a padlock image on the page. This will indicate that the information entered on these pages is secure.
Keep your computer antivirus software up to date.
Regularly check your accounts and statements for any suspicious or incorrect activity and report it immediately.
What to do if you become a victim
Start a written log: write down when you noticed the fraud and the actions you took, including names of people you spoke to and dates of communications.
File a report with your local police.
Contact your financial institutions and any other companies (e.g. phone company, cable provider, etc.) where your accounts were tampered with, or are at risk of being tampered with.
Advise Canada's two credit rating agencies, TransUnion and Equifax.