TORONTO, March 29, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - By remembering that 'knowledge is power,' Ontario Provincial Police say consumers can and should do more to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
Typical cases involving identity theft include situations where government documents such as drivers' licenses, health cards, Social Insurance Number (S.I.N.) cards and birth certificates have been forged or otherwise obtained. When identity is compromised, the consequences have a profound impact on individuals, businesses, government funds, and the public, in general.
Some basic steps consumers can take to better protect themselves from becoming a victim include never giving out personal information over the phone or over the internet and carry only the identification documents you need.
The OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau' Identity Crimes Unit also now has stronger legislative tools with which to charge criminals for possessing the personal information of others and prevent it from being used for fraud or theft.
"Identity theft is the starting point for many types of crimes - credit and debit card fraud, mortgage fraud, and account takeovers among other things. Savvy criminals can manipulate technology in order to obtain documents that will support their crimes." - Deputy Commissioner Vince Hawkes, Ontario Provincial Police, Provincial Commander, Investigations/Organized Crime Command "
"Combating identity crimes requires the collaborative efforts of the financial industry, law enforcement, government agencies, and consumers. Consumers need to take steps that make it less likely for them to become a victim of identity theft." - Inspector Don Perron, Ontario Provincial Police, Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau.
OPP IDENTITY CRIMES UNIT - BACKGROUND
OPP Identity Crimes Unit (ICU) resides within the Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau in the Investigations and Organized Crime Command.
OPP ICU investigates forgery, identity theft and consumer fraud. The unit also takes the lead role in investigations into organized criminal groups carrying out fraudulent schemes involving the fabrication, trafficking and use of forged payment cards, forged cheques and counterfeit currency.
The ICU works in conjunction with municipal police services, OPP regions, as well as national and international law enforcement agencies and stakeholders, to identify and apprehend organized crime groups, locally and on a global basis.
Identity crimes include the acquisition of information or documents confirming identity of a living or deceased person, in order to perpetrate offences under the Criminal Code of Canada or any other statute. Typical cases involving identity theft include situations where government documents such as drivers' licenses, health cards, Social Insurance Number (SIN) cards and birth certificates have been forged or otherwise obtained. When your identity is compromised, the consequences have a profound impact on individuals, businesses, government funds, and the public, in general. Being a victim can affect your job, reputation, credit rating, benefits, or access to your own business and/or financial accounts.
The Canadian Bankers Association reported a loss of almost 500-million dollars in relation to the theft of payment card data in 2008.
In October 2009, legislation was passed by the Government of Canada to combat identity theft. This legislation provides law enforcement agencies with the tools and the ability to charge criminals for possessing the personal information of others before it is used for fraud or theft.
For more information, visit your financial institution's website, or contact the Canadian Bankers Association, Interac, Equifax, or TransUnion.
The OPP Identity Crimes Unit also has a number of tips and contacts to help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. To get more information, click on this link.
IDENTITY THEFT PREVENTION TIPS
When impostors co-opt your name, your Social Insurance Number (SIN), your credit card number, or some other piece of personal information without your knowledge for their use -- it's a crime, plain and simple. Consumers can take some basic steps to better protect themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft includes the following:
- NEVER give out personal information on the phone, through mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the transaction or are absolutely certain with whom you are speaking.
- CARRY only the Identity Documents you need. For example: When was the last time you were asked to produce your Social Insurance Card? Many of us have carried it in our wallets or purses for many years. The Social Insurance Card is identification that is very useful for criminals.
- NEVER throw personal documents in the garbage without shredding them first. Identity thieves routinely pick through garbage and recycling bins. Documents to be shredded include credit applications or offers, insurance forms, and physician statements.
- ALWAYS check your bank and credit card statements to ensure that they are accurate, and make sure they arrive on time. Notify your bank immediately if the statements stop arriving at their normal time as they could have been diverted to another address by a criminal.
- NEVER give out your Personal Identification Number (PIN) over the phone or on the Internet. Financial institutions WILL NEVER ask you for your PIN over the phone or via the Internet.
- CHANGE your passwords regularly. Use hard-to-guess passwords or a combination of letters and numbers. And never share your password with anyone.
- ALWAYS ensure you're in a safe environment when on the internet. Look for the closed-lock or unbroken-key icons on your browser when entering your credit card number or other sensitive data. If you don't see the unbroken key or closed lock, or if the key is broken or the padlock is open, your transaction is not being securely transmitted across the Internet.
- CLEAR your browser's cache after visiting secure sites to ensure nobody else can view confidential information you may have transmitted.
- INSTALL and maintain a firewall to guard against unwanted access to your computer and make sure you have the latest anti-virus software installed.
- BE suspicious of spam e-mails. Criminals will use e-mails to 'phish' for your personal information. Do not use the links provided by 'phishing' e-mails. They could direct you to a criminal's website that appears similar to that of a legitimate financial institution.
- ALWAYS manually direct yourself to your financial institution's website if conducting on-line banking.
- CONDUCT credit checks on yourself periodically to ensure that your Credit Profile accurately reflects your situation and report any discrepancies immediately.