Social engineering, the ability to purchase items on-line, open bank accounts on-line as well as apply for loans on-line has enabled fraudsters to capitalize on stealing someone’s identity and commit identity fraud.
Identity theft and identity fraud incidents occur when someone uses someone else’s identity for personal and/or financial gain. Stolen identities can occur in the following ways:
• someone loses their wallet/purse;
• vehicles or residences are broken into;
• social media accounts are hacked into;
• information on the internet;
• mail is stolen;
• text message or email phishing scams;
• personal information housed by businesses, government agencies or healthcare offices are breached.
In 2018 there were 149 reports of identity theft and 756 identity fraud occurrences reported to the Edmonton Police Service. Of the 756 identity fraud occurrences 227 of the occurrences indicated money losses totaling $1,901,637.67. The remaining 529 identity fraud occurrences included:
• incidents where money was lost but the amount was unknown at the time of reporting;
• individuals used another person’s identity to avoid arrest;
• incidents where an individual used another person’s identity to open bank accounts, lines of credit or obtain credit cards but no funds were lost.
In 2018 the following types of identity fraud were reported to the Edmonton Police Service:
• Vehicles fraudulently purchased in the victim’s name;
• Bank accounts opened in the victim’s name and fraudulent purchases made;
• Loans received from secondary lending institutions such as Money Mart and Cash Money in the victim’s name;
• Credit card applied for and received in the victim’s name and fraudulent purchases made;
• Victim’s contact address and phone number associated to their bank account information was changed to the fraudster’s address and phone number;
• Social insurance cards in the victim’s name were fraudulently used to obtain credit or employment;
• SIM card in victim's phones were cancelled and new SIM cards were obtained in the victim’s name but contained the fraudster's contact information;
• Victim’s mailing address was cancelled through Canada Post and then redirected to another address;
• Fraudulent utility accounts were opened up in the victim’s name for addresses unknown to and not authorized by the victim;
• Fraudulent purchases were made on-line using the victim's credit card;
• Victim’s identity documents were used by fraudster for traffic violations so the traffic fines were redirected back to the victim;
Prevention and Reporting
If criminals obtain any document with your personal information on it, it can be used to instigate a fraud. The most common ways criminals can get your information is from mailboxes, your garbage, social networking websites, the internet, or through hackers.
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.
Our identities are not just comprised when someone has access to or takes our identity documents. 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;
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.