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Signs of Identity Theft and What to Do if You’re a Victim

Identity theft sounds like the kind of thing you’d notice right away; after all, someone is walking around pretending to be you! In reality, the signs can be easy to overlook, and they can continue for a long time before you’re even aware of it.

What is identity theft?
Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud under your name. With a stolen identity, a criminal can do all sorts of things:

  • Racking up debt under your name, which you’ll then be expected to pay
    Criminals do this by running up your credit cards, writing cheques on your bank account, taking out new loans or mortgages, renting property, and establishing new services with utility companies, to name just a few.
  • Defrauding the government
    This includes filing for employment insurance (EI) or other government funding, such as CERB, or filing false tax returns. The tax returns request are completed in a way where a large refund is in order, which the fraudster will then steal from your mailbox or bank account.
  • Subverting the criminal justice system
    Using your identity when they get caught committing a crime. Guess who’s going to jail for robbing the liquor store—hint: it’s not the criminal.

Signs your identity has been stolen

  • Your mail isn’t arriving when you expect it to.
    A criminal may be taking bills, credit card statements, or bank information directly from your mailbox, or they may be diverting your mail to a different address. The goal is to get your personal information and use it to impersonate you.
  • You get a statement for an account that you didn’t open.
  • There are unauthorized charges on your credit cards.
  • Your bank or credit card provider tells you you’ve been approved or declined for a credit card, loan, or other product that you didn’t apply for.
  • Your bank notifies you about unusual activity in your account.
  • You get calls from collection agencies about a debt you didn’t incur.
  • Your bank account balance doesn’t correspond with your records.
    Even a tiny discrepancy is cause for concern because a fraudster might be testing their method to see if it works. This can happen with credit cards as well, so keep an eye out even for small charges.
  • Your credit score has gone up or down for reasons you can’t identify.
    If your score goes up, a criminal could be establishing credit in your name before running it up.
  • A vendor or customer of yours informs you about a data breach.
  • You can’t file your taxes because someone else has already filed a return in your name.
  • Your cell phone or other utilities are cut off even though your payments are up to date.
  • You start getting online ads for expensive things you would never buy and have never shopped for.
  • A warrant is issued for your arrest.

What to do if your identity has been stolen
Sometimes people are reluctant to report the fraud because they’re embarrassed, but it can happen to anyone and has happened to plenty of savvy people.

If you suspect your identity has been stolen, act as fast as possible; the key is to minimize the damage.

  • File a report with your local police. Be sure to get a reference number for your complaint.
  • Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501). This organization is run jointly by the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP to collect information about fraud and provide information and guidance.
  • Report any lost or stolen credit cards to the companies that issued them.
  • Report the incident to your financial institution and get their advice about closing or flagging your accounts—order new debit and credit cards from them. If you use cheques, arrange to pick up the new ones instead of having them mailed.
  • If you think someone else used your Social Insurance Number, contact your local Service Canada Office for advice.
  • If the fraud took place online, report it to the site administrators. You’ll often be able to do this through an online form called something like “Report Abuse” or “Report an Ad.”
  • If your identification (ex: driver’s license, passport, health card) has been stolen or misused, contact the agency that issued it.
  • Contact both of Canada’s national credit reporting agencies: Trans Union Canada (1-800-663-9980) and Equifax Canada (1-800-465-7166), for a copy of your credit report, and get their advice about flagging your account.

Identity theft is unsettling. It can damage your finances, credit, and even your trust in others. At Star Quality Private Investigations, we’ve dealt with all types of fraud, from catfishing to brand-jacking to corporate fraud, and we know how deeply affecting it can be. We’re here to answer your identity theft questions and help in whatever way we can going forward. Contact us today to talk about how we can assist you.