If you happen to see accounts opened on your account that specifically aren’t yours, then you likely have become the target of fraudsters – deceptive individuals who have used your good name and standing to apply for a line of credit, credit card, or other kind of loan. If you find you are a victim of fraud then, you will need to take steps right away to prevent further issues. First, write down the discrepancies in your report and when you first noted them. Record your response and who you contacted as well as when you talked to them. Call the police and file a report with them and contact any of your creditors or lenders that could be affected or were impacted by the fraudulent activity. You will also have to talk to TransUnion and Equifax in Canada and request that a fraud alert be attached to your credit file. Canada also maintains an Anti-fraud Centre, which can be contacted by email at [email protected] or through their toll-free listing at 1-888-495-8501. Fraud alerts can be attached to credit histories if the owner of the report is a victim of fraud. The alert is also added if a person is robbed or has experienced a home break-in. To prove you are a victim of any of the aforementioned crimes, you may have to supply a sworn statement and show identification for purposes of confirmation. A fraud alert advises lenders to contact the holder of the file first for confirmation before they go ahead and approve a credit application. If you live in Ontario or Manitoba, you do not have to be a victim of fraud to add an alert for identity verification to your report. In order to attach the alert, you usually only need to pay a small charge and supply your personal identification. Naturally, in order to stay alert yourself to identity fraud or identity theft, you need to know all you can about how personal details can be stolen. Identity theft entails the collection of another person’s personal data for criminal purposes. Identity fraud extends to using the gathered information of an individual (living or dead) to obtain loans or credit cards. The theft of a person’s identity can range from such unsophisticated methods as rifling through the trash to such technological techniques as phishing, skimming, or hacking into a person’s profile on the Internet. Today, some viruses and spywares aid criminals in retrieving people’s personal information online. Victims of either identity fraud or theft can find it difficult to obtain credit or may experience significant financial loss. In Canada alone, identity fraud was reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by approximately 11,100 Canadian citizens in 2009. These who reported fraud showed a loss of over $10 million – over a million dollars from the previous year. Most of the losses were attributed to fraudulent uses of credit cards. Typically, identity thieves will seek the following information from their victims: –Name, date of birth and contact address –Social insurance number –Driver’s license number –Mother’s maiden name –A username or password for any online services –Personal identification numbers or PINs used to access accounts –Credit card details (such as expiry date or account number) –Checking account number –Passport number –Signature of a card holder In turn, criminals utilize the above information, whether it is reproduced or stolen, to: –Get into a bank account; –Open a new checking or bank account; –Transfer balances; –Make purchases; –Apply for credit cards or loans; or –Apply for government benefits or passports. The best method to use to determine if your identity has been stolen is to monitor your financial accounts online on a routine basis and check your credit history frequently. Look for any irregular activities. If you are receiving calls from collectors about accounts unknown to you or if you recently applied for a loan and were turned down, you will need to look at your report. If you suspect that you are a victim of fraud or theft, again, you will need to contact the two CRAs in Canada and ask them to place an alert on your credit history. You can contact Equifax in Canada at 1-800-465-7166 and TransUnon in Canada at 1-877-525-3823. Again, your financial institution and credit card companies should be contacted and a police report should be filed. To circumvent identity theft, prevention is the best measure. Remember – these events can happen online, via the telephone or through regular mail. Therefore, to protect yourself, you need to be especially wary of emails that are unsolicited, or anyone who calls or mails you in an attempt to extract any financial or personal details. If you are carrying identity documents in your purse or wallet, remove the ones that are not absolutely necessary and maintain them in a secure place such as a safe deposit box. If you are making a credit card transaction at a store, never have the cashier swipe the card. Instead, do it yourself. If the card is taken by the cashier, do not lose sight of it. Also, when using an ATM shield you PIN. Memorize the PINs for your phone calling cards and charge cards too. Never write the number on the cards. It also helps to become acquainted with the regular billing cycles for your debit and credit cards. Don’t throw away your paper statements without shredding them first. Trash bins or dumpsters can provide golden opportunities for identity thieves. If you are moving, make sure a change of address is made through you post office and that you notify your credit card companies and bank about the change.