Commitment to Fighting ID Theft

Identity Theft: What it is & what you can do about it

Every year, thousands of people are victims of identity theft (see statistics).

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While recent developments in telecommunications and computer processing make it easier for companies and consumers to reach each other, they can also scatter your personal information more widely, making life easier for criminals.

Identity theft is the unauthorized collection and use of your personal information, usually for criminal purposes.

Your name, date of birth, address, credit card, Social Insurance Number (SIN) and other personal identification numbers can be used to open credit card and bank accounts, redirect mail, establish cellular phone service, rent vehicles, equipment, or accommodation, and even secure employment.

If this happens, you could be left with the bills, charges, bad cheques, and taxes.

How to fight identity theft

  • Minimize the risk. Be careful about sharing personal information or letting it circulate freely.
  • When you are asked to provide personal information, ask how it will be used, why it is needed, who will be sharing it and how it will be safeguarded.
  • Give out no more than the minimum, and carry the least possible with you.
  • Be particularly careful about your SIN; it is an important key to your identity, especially in credit reports and computer databases.
  • Don't give your credit card number on the telephone, by electronic mail, or to a voice mailbox, unless you know the person with whom you're communicating or you initiated the communication yourself, and you know that the communication channel is secure.
  • Take advantage of technologies that enhance your security and privacy when you use the Internet, such as digital signatures, data encryption, and "anonymous" services.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycle. If credit card or utility bills fail to arrive, contact the companies to ensure that they have not been illicitly redirected.
  • Notify creditors immediately if your identification or credit cards are lost or stolen.
  • Access your credit report from a credit reporting agency once a year to ensure it's accurate and doesn't include debts or activities you haven't authorized or incurred.
  • Ask that your accounts require passwords before any inquiries or changes can be made, whenever possible.
  • Choose difficult passwords – not your mother's maiden name. Memorize them, change them often. Don't write them down and leave them in your wallet, or some equally obvious place.
  • Key in personal identification numbers privately when you use direct purchase terminals, bank machines, or telephones.
  • Find out if your cardholder agreement offers protection from credit card fraud; you may be able to avoid taking on the identity thief's debts.
  • Be careful what you throw out. Burn or shred personal financial information such as statements, credit card offers, receipts, insurance forms, etc. Insist that businesses you deal with do the same.

Are you a victim of identity theft?

  • Report the crime to the police immediately. Ask for a copy of the police report so that you can provide proof of the theft to the organizations that you will have to contact later.
  • Take steps to undo the damage. Avoid "credit-repair" companies: there is usually nothing they can do, and some have been known to propose a solution—establishing credit under a new identity—that is itself fraudulent.
  • Document the steps you take and the expenses you incur to clear your name and re-establish your credit.
  • Cancel your credit cards and get new ones issued. Ask the creditors about accounts tampered with or opened fraudulently in your name.
  • Have your credit report annotated to reflect the identity theft. Do a follow-up check three months after to ensure that someone has not tried to use your identity again.
  • Close your bank accounts and open new ones. Insist on password-only access to them.
  • Get new bank machine and telephone calling cards, with new passwords or personal identification numbers.
  • In the case of passport theft, advise the Passport Office.
  • Contact Canada Post if you suspect that someone is diverting your mail.
  • Advise your telephone, cable, and utilities that someone using your name could try to open new accounts fraudulently.
  • Get a new driver's license.

If you suspect that someone has been using your SIN to get a job, or that your SIN has been compromised in some other way, contact Human Resources Development Canada at:

Social Insurance Registration
P.O. Box 7000
Bathurst, NB E2A 4T1
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To find out more about your privacy rights, call the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada toll-free at 1-800-282-1376, or write:

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner
112 Kent Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 1H3
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Canadian Identity Theft Statistics

Be Safe, Shred It:

Ipsos Reid reported that nine percent or approximately 2,700,000 Canadians have been victims of identity theft at some point over their lifetime.

Ipsos Reid, (February 28, 2003), Concern about Identity Theft Growing in Canada

Identity theft is on the rise. Surveys in Canada and the United States indicate that approximately 3 percent of Canadians (900,000 people) and Americans (10.1 million people) were victims of identity theft in 2003 alone.

The Canadian survey was conducted by Environics and the American survey was conducted by the Federal Trade Commission

Consider the Facts:

On average, identity theft victims spend 175 hours of their personal time and over $1,500 to clear their names.

Federal Trade Commission

According to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll, one in four Canadians has been or knows someone who has been a victim of identity theft.

Ipsos Reid, (February 28, 2003), Concern about Identity Theft Growing in Canada

What Happens:

There were 11,322 complaints of identity theft across Canada in 2004 accounting for $18.74 million worth of fraud, according to PhoneBusters.
Barry Elliott, a detective staff sergeant with the Ontario Provincial Police, The Toronto Star, Mar 11, 2005

  • Thirty-six percent of those say that someone obtained a new credit card in their name.
  • Twenty-four percent of those say that their personal information has been used to commit insurance or payment fraud.
  • Twenty-four percent of those say that someone has used their identity to obtain government benefits.
  • Twenty-three percent of those say that their personal information has been used to open up a new phone or utility account.
  • Twenty-two percent of those say that someone took out a loan in their name.

The total number here is greater than 100 percent because individuals reported being victimized in more than one way. In other words, some identity thieve used the same individual’s personal information to open up a credit card and take out a loan, etc.

Consumer Perceptions:

According to a study conducted by Consumer Reports Web Watch, 80% of people are concerned about ID theft.

Business Liability:

Council of Better Business Bureaus in Canada estimates identity theft costs $2.5 billion a year to consumers, banks, credit card firms, stores and other businesses.

Statistics from The Council of Better Business Bureau Canada

Law enforcement agencies describe identity theft as the fastest growing crime that business, consumers, and governments face. The Council of Better Business Bureau Canada

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