Over the last several years, identity thieves have been stealing personal information from a growing number unsuspecting people to make credit card purchases, obtain fraudulent bank loans, apply for fake passports, and more. The problem has become a significant one in the country with over 40,000 consumer complaints to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in 2014 and millions of dollars stolen by criminals. It is crucial to address any suspicious activity early and consult the helpful advice of a licensed insolvency trustee in Kingston if you’ve been impacted.
STEPS TO KEEPING YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION SAFE
The old adage, “You can never be too careful,” is particularly true when it comes to protecting yourself against identity theft. Guarding passwords to your devices – such as covering your PIN when using your credit card in public and only using it on secure websites – is one of many helpful solutions. Computer hackers are both skilled and sophisticated, so also choose complex combinations of numbers, letters and symbols, change them regularly, and never save them on websites when prompted.
Using virus-protection and anti-spyware to keep criminals from hacking into your systems, as well as deleting your browser history and private files is also helpful. Alternatively, you can store them on an external hard drive or USB key and keep it in a safe place. It is also important to be vigilant with safe social media practices. You may opt to adjust your privacy settings and limit communication with people you are not familiar with. If donating old electronics, be sure to erase all your personal information first.
Always screen phone calls and avoid answering calls from numbers you do not recognize. However, if you do, never provide personal information over the phone. If a company ever needs this information from you, such as Revenue Canada, they will request it through the mail only.
The same goes for individuals who might come by your home in person. Do not accept offers for pre-approved credit cards. Also, be sure to cut up any old cards with personal details and throw the pieces in different garbage bags, and shred any documents with personal information before you discard them – such as tax returns or payment records from employers.
MONITORING YOUR SECURITY BOTH ONLINE & OFFLINE
Each month, it is important to review your credit card and bank statements to ensure there is no suspicious activity. Financial institutions do a relatively good job of alerting you if anything suspicious occurs, however you are the best monitor of your financial transactions and information. Even unrecognizable deposits should be met with doubt.
While on vacation, take advantage of safes provided in hotel rooms to secure your passports, flight information, wallets, money, credit cards, and traveler’s cheques. Do not keep these items in the car if you are vacationing by vehicle. If you will be away for an extended period of time, you may also wish to put a temporary hold on your mail and newspaper subscriptions to avoid them piling up outside. Opt to secure your residence with an alarm system, leave a car in the driveway and set lights inside and out to go on with timers. By doing so, thieves are less likely to invade your home and you will have peace of mind knowing your belongings and assets are protected.
AVOID BANKRUPTCY AFTER BECOMING A VICTIM OF FRAUD IN ONTARIO
If you’ve been the victim of fraud and are suffering financial instability, a licensed insolvency trustee can assist you. Whether you’re located in Kingston, Ottawa, or surrounding areas of Eastern Ontario, D. & A. MacLeod can guide you through the process and help you recover your lost finances.
In general, avoid keeping too much personal information on you. While a driver’s license, credit card and debit card are probably necessary, limit others and never carry passwords and PINs, your birth certificate, or your SIN card. In addition to making fraudulent credit card purchases, identity thieves can even take out a loan or apply for a passport in your name. It can be very difficult to rectify these situations and can even lead you to bankruptcy in Kingston if you do not act quickly.
D. & A. MacLeod has 8 offices across Eastern Ontario including Ottawa, Smiths Falls, Orleans, Pembroke, Brockville, Kingston, Cornwall, and Kanata. With 65 years of experience, we have the expertise to rectify your situation and get you back on track to a new beginning that is both safe and stress-free. Contact us today for a free consultation.