Did You Know: Instances of identity theft have increased ten-fold in Canada over the last decade. It’s not just happening in our neck of the woods either. Around 49 million US residents experienced some form of identity theft in 2020 alone. While we usually devote this blog to sharing business security and property security tips, we want to cover the important topic of identity theft. Our goal is to share best practices on how to prevent yourself from being on the receiving end of this increasingly common crime.
8 Tips to Avoid Identity Theft in Canada
Start Shredding Your Documents
If you live in an apartment complex, chances are you’ve seen letters dumped by your neighbours into the recycling bins. These letters often contain sensitive personal information like bank account details, social insurance number and more. The simple fact is, you should be shredding any documentation that could be used to identify you. Dumpster diving is a common phenomenon in Canada, and you don’t want your information getting into the wrong hands.
Keep Your Mailbox Secure
Many Canadians receive their mail to community mailboxes. Criminals keep an eye on these mailboxes and regularly break in to steal packages and letters. While it’s impossible to watch these mailboxes 24/7, don’t leave your mail in there over the long term. Make it part of your daily routine to remove your mail. Alternatively, consider having any sensitive information shipped to a local post office instead.
Keep Government Documents Hidden
Unless you’re going on vacation, there’s no need for you to carry your passport on your person. In fact, you should never carry your social insurance card, birth cert or any other document you’d be distressed if you lost. Keep your identification cards to a minimum. Alongside this, invest in a safety deposit box for your home where you can safely stow important documents.
How you shop can bring additional identity theft risk factors. If you’re using a credit card or debit card, ensure you’re covering your actions while punching in your pin code at the point of sale. When you’re shopping online, ensure the website has up to date SSL certification. It’s easy to check for this, simply look for a padlock on the left of the website URL.
Invest in Antivirus Software
Many attempts at identity theft now come to us through our computers. Invest in a robust piece of antivirus software and keep it regularly updated. This will prevent your computer from becoming infected with ransomware and other threatening viruses.
Change Your Passwords Frequently
Here’s an exercise to try out. Put your email address into this website and see how many times your usernames and passwords have been leaked onto the internet. What most of us don’t realize is that we’ve likely fallen victim to several data leaks in online services. These databases of usernames and passwords are typically sold to the highest bidder. Ensure you’re changing passwords semi-regularly so any breaches won’t result in all your accounts becoming compromised.
Don’t Overshare on Social Media
A friend once took a long weekend away to catch some sun and escape our gloomy Canadian winter. In the run up to the vacation, he counted down the days on social media. The vacation went amazing, but when he arrived back, his home had been cleared out of valuables. When you post your plans on social media, anyone can be watching and taking note. Don’t over-share your whereabouts. If you do, you’re rolling out the red carpet for crime.
Vigilance is the number one way to prevent, or limit your exposure to identity theft. Check your bank accounts each day, watch out for unusual log-ins to your accounts or devices. You’re likely going to be the first person to realize identity theft is happening, but it’s crucial you don’t ignore the warning signs.
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