Identity theft and identity fraud incidents occur when someone uses someone else’s identity for personal and/or financial gain.
In 2022, The Edmonton Police Service received 528 reports of identity theft scams with a total financial loss of $9,337,369.
Social engineering, the ability to purchase items online, open bank accounts online as well as apply for loans online, has enabled fraudsters to capitalize on stealing someone’s identity and commit identity fraud.
Many victims don't report a monetary loss when they are victims of Identity Theft, but state that their personal and financial information had been used in the following ways:
- Credit cards had been issued in their name
- Purchased/lease/rent vehicles in their name
- Purchased/lease/rent equipment in their name
- Created fake identification using their name
- Drivers licence
- SIN card
- Healthcare card
- Medical Insurance/health care coverage card
- Created fake cheques or altered legitimate cheques using their personal information
- Open bank accounts in their name
- Acquired loans in their name
- Open a PayPal account in their name
- Opened utilities accounts in their name
- Opened mobile phone accounts and purchase cell phone(s) in their name
- Opened email accounts in their name
- To move money from one of the victim’s legitimate bank accounts to another one of the victim’s legitimate bank account; e-Transfer attempted by denied by financial institution.
- Create fraudulent social media accounts in their name
- Cell phone takeover
- Account takeover: Apple, PayPal, mobile phone
- Change payroll deposit information
The losses incurred in the above occurrences were, for the most part, absorbed by the financial institution or the business associated to the purchase/account; therefore the dollar value of the loss is unknown.
Victims' identification documents were acquired by fraudsters in the following ways:
- Victim throwing the documents in the garbage
- Theft from vehicle – over 80% of the identity fraud occurrences were related to people leaving utilities, identity and banking documents in their vehicle.
- Theft from locker
- Theft of mail
- Lost wallet/purse
- Data breach
- Email compromise provided through online scam or telephone scam.
Victims gained knowledge that their identity had been stolen and used fraudulently when:
- They received documentation, debit cards, credit cards from financial institutions in the mail.
- Received phone calls verifying or confirming account openings.
- When the victim did a credit check on their financial history they found credit checks that were not initiated by them or accounts had been opened in their name that they were unaware of.
Prevention and Reporting
If criminals obtain any document with your personal information on it, it can be used to instigate a fraud.
In order to protect your identity:
Limit the identity documents you carry with you to your driver’s license or an identity card issued at a registries office.
Keep your vehicle registration and insurance documents in your wallet not the vehicle;
NEVER give out your SIN Number. The only organizations who need your SIN are your employer and your bank for federal tax purposes; NEVER provide your SIN to a landlord, phone company, etc.
Keep your vehicle clear of any identity documents, membership or credit cards, utilities documents or any documents that have your name, address or account information on it;
Keep the following items in a safe place, as you do not need to have them with you every day:
Social insurance number
Do a yearly credit check through Equifax or TransUnion to see if anyone has:
Opened up a bank account in your name;
Obtained a credit card in your name;
Obtained utilities in your name;
Purchased a mobile phone and opened up cell phone account in your name;
Purchased a vehicle in your name.
If you receive mail, an email or a phone call from any bank, company or financial institution thanking you for applying for credit or providing you with a credit/purchase card you did not apply for find the correct contact phone number for that company and call them; don’t throw it away and ignore it.
Limit your online presence if possible and ensure that your social media accounts are secure.
Update security and virus protection on your home computer
Change your credit and debit card PIN, especially if you have been using the same one for a few years
Shred your personal documents and safely recycle your electronics.
Unfortunately we do not always know when or if our identities have been stolen. If you do lose or have any identity documents stolen, report it to all of the following agencies as soon as you can:
• local police agency;
• Equifax Canada (1-800-465-7166);
• TransUnion (1-800-663-9980);
• Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501);
• If you lost or gave out your social insurance number (SIN) call Service Canada (1-800-206-7218);
• If you lost or gave your passport information call Passport Canada (1-800-567-6868) to report the details and to have it cancelled;
• If you lost or sent a picture of your driver’s license in an email or text message to an unknown person call Service Alberta (780-310-0000 if you're in Alberta, or 1-780-427-7013 toll free) to report the details to have it replaced.
It is also important for you to contact any company or financial institution that you have accounts with if that information has or may have been taken or compromised. For example:
• Bank cards;
• Credit cards;
• Membership cards such as Costco;
• Utility providers;
• Social media accounts that have been compromised.
It’s important to remember that your stolen identity documents can be held by someone for years and then used to commit identity fraud at a later date; that’s why it’s important to report when your identity documents have been stolen or lost. When you report it to the above agencies, they will flag your accounts and contact you when someone is attempting to change your personal information or open accounts in your name.
Sometimes, you do everything you can to protect yourself from fraud, and it still happens to you. For example, mail thieves can get lucky by breaking into the right mail boxes at the right time. Leanne is one of those victims:
It was shortly after Christmas in 2018 when Leanne had returned home after attending a loved one’s funeral. She picked up her mail and noticed three envelopes from various banks that she does not use. Thankfully, Leanne previously worked at a bank, so she knew not to ignore mail coming from financial institutions, even though they weren’t from her bank.
When she opened them, she found one had a debit card for an account she never opened, another had a replacement debit card that had two accounts opened in her name, and the third included a copy of an attempted cashed cheque (which was altered) for over $2000, and a copy of a fraudulent cheque that someone tried to deposit into one of these new accounts. Follow-up pin numbers arrived in the mail shortly after receiving the debit cards for the fraudulent accounts. Leanne travelled to each bank to report the fraudulent accounts and have them closed. She also went to her own bank and informed them of her apparent identity fraud, so they would watch her accounts in case the fraudster tried to pull the same scam at her institution.
A year later, Leanne had two Walmart Rewards credit cards show up in her mail. Again, she went to the nearest location to report the fraudulent account and have it closed. “Even though I didn’t lose money, my credit was affected,” explains Leanne. “It is so time consuming, and you just constantly worry about it happening again.” Right now, Leanne is still waiting for her T4 to be delivered, and she’s concerned that it may have been taken when her community mailboxes were broken into.