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Originally posted March 21, 2011

March is fraud prevention month in Canada.

In today’s technology driven world, identity theft is rampant. According to a McMaster eBusiness Research Centre study, in 2007 alone, 1.7 million Canadians (6.5% of the population at the time) reported that they were the victim of identity theft.

Your personal information can be used without your knowledge to apply for loans, mortgages, credit cards, and a wide range of other items. Many don’t even know their identity has been stolen until they start to receive past due notices in the mail or apply for financing themselves.

Here are a few simple ways to protect yourself against identity theft:

  • Never provide your Social Insurance Number, unless absolutely necessary. Although many lenders will ask for it, it is rare that you are actually required to provide it. If in doubt, ask to see proof that it is legally required.
  • Protect your PIN! We see these messages everywhere and rarely do we ever cover up when entering our PINs.
  • Beware of phishing (messages that look like they’ve come from trusted businesses or financial institutions, requesting your personal information). Again, if in doubt, call and ask.
  • We’ve all been asked for our postal code when checking out at a store or our full address and phone number when making a return. This information may be stored in the same database that stores your credit card information from your purchase. A dangerous combination. You are within your rights to refuse to provide this information when asked.
  • Never, ever give out that little number on the back of your credit card, unless you absolutely need to and the source requesting it is trusted. That number is there to ensure that the person making purchases with the card is actually in possession of the card.