21 September 2016

Take steps to avoid the devastating consequences of identity fraud

Tips to safeguard your identity

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada according to Canada Post1 and fraud related to stolen identities is increasing quickly.

Until a new law was passed in 20102 making it illegal to possess another person's identity information for criminal purposes, identity theft was not even regarded as a crime. Today it's uppermost in many consumers' minds.

The latest Canada Fraud survey conducted for Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada3 found that 73 per cent of respondents agreed that their personal information was at risk because Canadian businesses were vulnerable to cyber attacks. However, 66 per cent agreed that those businesses were doing their best to safeguard personal information.

While most businesses, particularly in the financial services sector, have sophisticated systems to protect customers' personal information, experts agree that it's also up to individuals to do as much as they can to protect themselves.

Identity theft occurs when an individual steals another person's identity and impersonates that person. By using basic personal information like name, address and social insurance number, identity thieves commit fraud by opening credit card accounts, leasing or buying cars, renting apartments or even engaging in criminal activity using the stolen name.

Often, the first time an individual becomes aware that their identity has been stolen is when they are contacted by a collection agency demanding payment for an outstanding debt, or by the police investigating a crime committed in their name. It's a devastating experience for most victims.

Equifax, one of the world's leading consumer and business credit ratings and data collection companies, sees the consequences of identity theft every day.4

John Russo, vice-president, legal counsel and chief privacy officer at Equifax Canada, says for most victims, recovering from identity theft is a long and difficult process.

"Rehabilitating a stolen identity can take months or even years," he says. "It's a long and complicated process involving law enforcement agencies, credit bureaus, the companies that sold products or services to the identity thief and anyone else who may have been touched by the thief's actions."

Russo says approximately one in four Canadians whose personal information is compromised as a result of a data breach become fraud victims. He points out that data breaches are now "a fact of life" in Canada. As a result, people are increasingly attracted to businesses that protect their privacy.

Russo advises people whose identity is compromised to take three immediate steps:

  • Contact the police and file an affidavit;
  • Contact the institution where they have been compromised and let them know so that they can start an investigation;
  • Contact both credit bureaus in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion, so that they can monitor any suspicious activity in your name.

Identity safeguarding tips from Canada's Competition Bureau, which plays a leading role in anti-fraud campaigns, include:

  • Destroy personal information, don't just throw it out. You should cut up or shred old bills, statements or cards;
  • Treat your personal details like you would treat money; don't leave them lying around for others to take.

HSBC also advises you never disclose security details over the phone when receiving unsolicited calls. If you receive an unsolicited call from HCBC, for example, ask for the caller's contact details then call your HSBC Relationship/Account Manager to validate before calling back. You can also report any fraud and obtain more details by visiting Report fraud page under Security website.

To keep up to date on online security, visit our Security website.

For information about how HSBC protects our customers, visit HSBC Safeguard.

Rehabilitating a stolen identity can take months or even years

Disclaimer

The information presented is not meant to be comprehensive and does not constitute financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this document without first obtaining specific professional advice. While reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, HSBC does not make any guarantee, representation or warranty (express or implied) as to its accuracy or completeness. The information presented in this document is subject to change without notice.

Certain of the products and services offered by HSBC and its subsidiaries and affiliates are subject to credit adjudication and approval. This document does not constitute an offer to provide the services and products described and the provision of such services and products remains subject to contract.

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Issued by HSBC Bank Canada ("HSBC")

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