Identity Theft

In order for a con artist to access your identity, they need two things… they need your photo identification and your bank account number.                                       

Thieves are becoming more and more inventive as they seek a way to invade your privacy and steal away your identity.  Here is an example:
LOCKSMITH – The thieves have planned ahead and have collected flyers and other mail with your name and address on them from your recycling bin.  They have been watching the home and know when you are least likely to return.   When the coast is clear, they call a locksmith, stating that they are Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and they have locked themselves out of their home.  The unwitting locksmith arrives and the thieves show him these pieces of identification, and he unlocks the home for them.
Now, they have unlimited access to your home and can invade to their hearts desire.  Victims of this scam have arrived to find passports, bank account and credit card information missing – in addition to the contents of their home!
These con artists, in addition to breaking into your home, have quick access to your vehicle as well.  The vehicle identification number (VIN) is very clearly accessible on your dashboard in front of the driver near the windshield.
Because they have access to your personal records while in your home, they will call the dealership where you bought your car, and state that they have locked themselves out of your car at work and will come over (with a friend) and have a new key cut.  The dealership asks for id and the con artists said that their driver licenses and registration were in their car, but show them the passports, or birth certificate, or any one of a number of personal papers you have in your home. 
Now they have your car, the contents of your home and everything they need to turn your life upside-down while they open credit cards and bank accounts in your name, book vacations, and any number of other financially draining activities. Now what do you do?
Today there is so much personal information available through the internet, it is becoming harder and harder to protect yourself.  In addition, with so much junk mail arriving at your home, with your name and address clearly displayed identity theft has become a very lucrative business.  So, what do we do?  How do we protect ourselves?
One of the most important purchases you can make to protect yourself from identity theft is a micro shredder, not just a regular shredder.  A micro shredder will turn any document into nothing less than confetti sized pieces that will be impossible to reconstruct.  Make shredding a habit.  When you go to work, you never think about what streets to turn onto – it is an “automatic pilot” habit.  Make it an automatic habit that each time you pick up your mail, check it and shred ANY discarded personal information (ANYTHING that has your name and address on it).  Even tear off the back page of any magazine that your disposing of that happens to have your address label on it, and shred that too. 
Here are some additional identity theft protection measures that you can implement right now: 
•       If you lose your ATM card, get a new one, but do not use a common security code, i.e.: the last 4 digits of your SIN number, your birth date, or your phone number
•       Check regularly your bank account and credit card balances and activity online or at the teller’s counter to see if there are any suspicious, unknown charges
•       If you have not already done so, consider purchasing Title Insurance through your lawyer.  This protects you against Title Fraud.  I’m sure you’ve read articles in the newspapers about homeowners who thought their home was paid for only to find a con artist had registered a new mortgage at their expense
•       Consider Home Insurance.  Insurance companies offer ID theft protection from $15-25 thousand dollars.  Check with your insurance company to see what they offer.
•       If you have young children, under the age of 18, they will have received a SIN as early as when they were 3 months old.  Keep it safe.
•       Often times, teenagers will receive an unsolicited credit card in the mail.  Their name is probably obtained through marketing lists.  Talk to their bank about getting their names OFF the marketing list, and shred the card and all of the paperwork associated with it. 
The Identity Theft Resource Centre offers a multitude of information on how to protect yourself and what to do if your privacy has been violated.  Some online security suggestions include making sure the site you are using to purchase your Christmas presents this year is a secure site.  Secure sites begin with the prefix https, not http.  If you are entering sensitive information anywhere online, look at the internet address first.  If is it an http site – do not enter your credit card or other personal information.
With Christmas coming, another good idea is to carry as little as possible in your wallet and purses.  Keep your wallets and cash in your front pockets, where you are in control, and pick pockets have a lesser chance of robbing you of your hard earned money.
Remember, this time of year these thieves will be out in full force, realizing that between 25-40% of the retail business is done at Christmas, and also they know that you will generally be way too busy to check up on the security of the sites you visit, or be vigilant in your shredding.  Your security online and offline is of the utmost importance, so always make your family’s security a habit.

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