Recently one of our Partners had a bit of an identity crisis. Someone who likes to circumnavigate the law has a very similar name to this Partner. Although there is a one letter difference, it is still close enough to lead to potential confusion. It got us thinking about identity theft; What it is, how it happens, and how you can prevent it.
Identity theft is the use of personal information by someone other than the rightful owner for criminal activity. During the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada’s annual fraud survey, they found 71% of Canadians are concerned about identity theft. We should be! Identity theft schemes range from elaborate and technical to something as unsophisticated as mail fraud or dumpster diving. Victims of fraud can experience financial losses and difficulty obtaining credit, but also have trouble restoring their “good name.” Phishing, job scams, loan scams, service scams, tax scams, bank investigator scams, and investment scams are common methods of identity theft in Canada. Additionally, computer spyware and viruses designed to help thieves acquire personal information are on the rise.
The best way to prevent identity theft is to minimize the would-be fraudsters access to your personal information. Be wary of unsolicited contact over the internet, telephone, fax, or regular mail, as these can be an attempt to extract information from you. Check your bank and credit card statements, as well as your credit report, and promptly report any irregularities to the financial institution involved as well as the credit bureau.
Trash bins can be a gold mine for thieves, so shred any personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage, and if you change your address immediately notify the post office as well as your bank and credit card companies. If you must hand over your card during a transaction, be sure never to lose sight of it and to shield your personal information when using the PIN pad or ATM.
If you follow these tips, stay vigilant, and work with a great team of accountants like JMH & Co, you should be well on your way to avoiding identity theft and keeping you and your financial reputation safe