Unless it’s happened to you or someone you know, chances are you have no idea how devastating identity theft can be. In fact, in 2009, over 11,000 Canadians were affected by identity theft and that number continues to grow. When someone gets access to your name, date of birth, address, credit card, Social Insurance Number, and other personal identification numbers, they can get a credit card in your name, rent a car, check into a hotel or even get a job, leaving you responsible for a lot of bills and headaches.
How can your identity can be stolen?
There are many ways your identity can be stolen, besides someone getting information from your smartphone. Thieves can get your personal information by:
- Stealing your cellphone and accessing its data.
- Stealing utility bills from your mailbox.
- Listening while you give your credit card number over the phone in a public place.
- Photographing your bank card while you’re shopping or using an ATM.
- Taking documents such as passports or tax returns during a break-in at your house.
- Digging through garbage cans or dumpsters, looking for cancelled cheques or bank statements.
How to protect yourself
Unfortunately, there are many, many more ways to have your identity stolen. To be properly protected, look for a home insurance policy that lets you add coverage for identity theft. Here are just a few other simple steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Don’t carry every piece of ID you own in your wallet or purse; if you lose it all, assume an identity theft will occur and take steps to mitigate right away.
- Choose complex passwords. Hint: 1234 is not a good one, nor is your mother’s maiden name — and really, having the same password for every account is a bit like every house in a neighbourhood having the same front door key.
- Check your credit card bill to make sure the charges are yours.
- Don’t throw away paper with personal information on it, shred it first – this goes for credit card receipts, bank statements, utility bills, even junk mail that has your name and address on it.
- Don’t put your credit card number in an email.
Recovering from identity theft
If you’ve been hit with identity theft:
- Report the crime to the police immediately. Get a copy of the police report to substantiate the theft to the organizations that you will need to contact.
- If you’ve purchased identity theft insurance, call your home insurance provider with the details. You’ll need to document the steps you take and the expenses you incur to clear your name and re-establish your credit.
- It may seem obvious, but you need to establish new passwords for pretty much every business you deal with.
- Contact the credit reporting agencies and have the identity theft noted on your credit report.
- Go to your bank and meet with someone face to face to set up new bank accounts, access and credit cards and passwords.
- Contact Canada Post if you suspect that your mail is being diverted.
Securing your smartphone
You love your iPhone. Or your Blackberry, or your Android. You use it for everything: photos, banking, books, email, calendar, documents; everything. And a lot of you use it for both personal and business use. Maybe it’s time to think about taking some security measures:
- Hold the phone. Don’t set your phone down, and risk somebody else picking it up. Make sure you know where your phone is at all times. And don’t leave it lying on the table while you go to pick up your coffee. It could be gone when you get back.
- Put it away. Don’t bring your phone out if you happen to be in a sketchy area, when you’re waiting for a train, or when you’re in a very crowded train car. It’s just too easy for someone to grab it and run. And make sure if it’s in your purse or bag, that it’s in a secure, zipped up compartment.
- Just say no. If someone asks you for the time, don’t bring out your phone to check the time. They may just be scoping out the type of phone you have. Just look at your watch, or say you don’t know.
- Open sesame. Create a password or PIN, and lock your phone. This is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself, and all smartphones have this capability. Don’t make the PIN too complicated, as you’ll be entering it often, but don’t make it so easy that anyone can easily guess it. Hide it, if you’re entering your PIN when there are other people nearby.
- Back it up. Sync your phone to your computer often. If you do lose your phone, at least you can easily recover the data you had stored.
- Shut it off. If you’re not using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, shut them off. Other users may be able to retrieve information from your contact list, send SMS messages from your phone, and more. And be cautious when connecting to a public Wi-Fi spot. Unsecured hotspots open you up to eavesdropping or theft.
- Stay in jail. Don’t unlock, or jailbreak, your phone. This makes you more vulnerable to security attacks.
- Get with the times. Make sure your phone is updated. When your operating system offers an update, it often adds extra security features, along with whatever features they’re advertising.
- Wipe out. Enable remote wipe functionality, with software, or a service. If someone does steal your phone, it’s nice to know you can wipe it clean remotely, and prevent your data from getting into someone else’s hands.
Make sure you have good home insurance which will allow you to replace your smartphone if it’s lost, stolen, or damaged. Even worse, is the damage to your credit rating if whoever steals your phone, also steals your identity. Have identity theft insurance coverage in place to cover any expenses involved in restoring your credit.
For more information, or to get a home insurance quote, contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933.