Identity theft is when someone acquires and collects another person’s personal information, such as Social Insurance Number (SIN), driver’s license number, birth date, address, etc, without their knowledge, and uses it for criminal purposes.
The thief uses your personal data to make it appear that you are the one completing a transaction.
It could be as simple as the criminal getting a new credit card.
If an imposter gets a credit card in your name they can spend freely while leaving you with the bill.
Perhaps they will take out a mortgage on a property you own.
They receive the mortgage funds and you are stuck with the mortgage liability.
Or, the imposter could use your name in a legal matter and leave you with a false criminal record, get a passport, transfer bank balances—the list is endless.
In addition to the devastating social and emotional stress of any theft, identity theft victims will have to remedy the damage done to their good name and credit rating.
This can be a lengthy, frustrating, and expensive process.
Identity theft is big business.
Statistics Canada reports that in 2016 the rate of police-reported incidents of identity fraud increased by 16 per cent and identity theft by 21 percent.
Lisanne Roy Beauchamp from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre told the CBC last January that “It’s estimated that everyone will be a victim of ID theft at one point in their lives.”
Due to the recent computer hack at Equifax, that statement is now true for an estimated 8,000 Canadians and 145 million Americans.
Equifax revised these numbers from the original statement issued last month.
Equifax is a credit reporting agency that has sensitive information on millions of people.
It has been reported that the company had a security glitch that they were slow to repair.
As a result, the personal information of millions was stolen.
The question is how significant is the theft of this information?
The answer in a word….. Huge!
Two high-ranking executives have left the U.S. based firm.
They were joined by Richard Smith the chief executive officer who, after stepping down, was called before Congress to testify on what went wrong.
The value of the stock of their company has declined by $5.5 billion.
In Canada, the privacy Commissioner has opened an investigation.
On both sides of the border several class-action lawsuits have commenced.
The reality of our digital world is that security breaches will happen.
Ideally, theft wouldn’t happen at all.
Unfortunately, it’s been part of life since the beginning of time.
Identity theft is simply a new version of the same old crime. Call it theft on steroids.
I recommend that all individuals take measures to protect their personal information and make it more difficult for identity theft to occur.
Most of us consistently lock our cars and front doors, however we are less likely to have good habits that can protect us from identity theft.
Be aware of the risk of having your identity stolen and pay attention to all aspects of your financial affairs. Check bank statements, credit card transactions, and in general be on the lookout for anything that seems suspicious.
Criminals will try harder to steal our identities. We need to try harder to protect ourselves.