Protecting Your Privacy
In the age of information technology, where personal information about individuals can be collected easily and stored indefinitely, protecting your personal information and your privacy has become a daunting task but nevertheless, a growing necessity.
Always keep in mind the five W’s of protecting your privacy when asked to disclose your personal information.
Who wants it and who will have access to it?
Why do they want it?
What will it be used for?
Where will your information be stored?
When will your information be used and when will it be discarded?
Identity theft is a rapidly growing crime that continues to claim thousands of victims each year, with serious consequences. In most cases, victims of identity theft have absolutely no idea they have become victims until it is too late. As part of its responsibility to serve the public, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) strives to promote education and provide tools and resources to assist the public in protecting their personal information. This booklet offers tips on how to prevent identity theft as well as steps that victims can take to help recover from the crime.
What is Identity Theft?
According to the Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre,
“Identity theft and fraud include a range of crimes such as credit card information theft, financial and personal document theft, and data breeches, to name a few. Thieves strike indiscriminately, leaving individuals, businesses, governments and organizations of all sizes vulnerable to their attacks.
The impact on victims can be devastating – impacting their personal finances, credit ratings, criminal records and worse. Far too often, victims are left without the appropriate institutional support and have to try on their own to navigate the complex maze of redress options.”
Steps you can take to avoid identity theft
While consumers may not be responsible for the large-scale occurrences of identity theft emanating from poor data management practices, there are nonetheless steps that can be taken to attempt to minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Minimize the amount of personal information you give out, especially online;
- Do not give out your Social Insurance Number (SIN), unless absolutely necessary; never disclose it online; never use it as a password;
- Keep items containing personal information, such as your birth certificate, passport, citizenship card, etc., in a safe place;
- Minimize the use of personal information when using social media. Understand the privacy and security settings available and take advantage of them;
- Guard your mail from theft add a lock to your mailbox;
- Password protect your mobile device. Always use strong passwords on your tablet and/or smartphone;
- Ensure your computing devices are kept up to date with the latest security updates and patches.
- Be cautious when downloading or using third party applications on your devices and/or social media outlets. Third party applications come with their own set of privacy policies and may be able to access and distribute your personal information upon installation;
- Pay attention to your billing cycles; carefully review bills and statements on a regular basis; monitor your account balances and activities frequently;
- Obtain and review your full credit report every year; mark the date in your calendar as a reminder;
- Notify creditors immediately if your cards are lost or stolen;
- Obtain a separate credit card dedicated to the exclusive use of your online purchases (with the lowest credit limit possible);
- Shred all personal records and financial statements instead of just throwing them into the wastebasket;
- Beware of dumpster divers: ask businesses that you deal with (like car rental agencies) to shred your application forms upon completion of their use;
- Ask companies that print your entire credit card number on the sales receipt to consider truncating the number (so it doesn’t appear in its entirety); and
- Be very wary of responding directly online to any email request for personal information sent by online service providers (phishing), or an alleged superior within your organization (spear-phishing). Instead, contact the institution or sender through another communication channel – call them by phone, using a pre-existing number.
The Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre offers free, expert advice to Canadians who have become victims of identity theft. The Centre is staffed by highly-skilled Case Advisors, who have in-depth knowledge of the kinds of identity theft that occur in Canada, and how to deal with the issues that arise when a person is victimized.
If you have a question about identity theft, know or suspect that you have become a victim, contact the Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre:
FAQs: For a helpful list of FAQs, please visit the Identity Theft 911 Knowledge Center. The center helps consumers understand and detect the many forms of identity theft and fraud by providing answers to common questions.
If you have already become a victim:
- Immediately report the crime to the police; keep a copy of the police/occurrence report;
- Armed with the police occurrence report, advise all businesses with whom you have a relationship, of the possible loss, theft, or misuse of your identity. Ask for stronger security measures — have a fraud alert placed on your accounts; start with the credit bureaus;
- Cancel all your existing cards and accounts, and open new ones;
- Document all the steps you have taken and your expenses to clear your name and re-establish your credit;
- Have your credit reports annotated or possibly “frozen;”
- Contact the post office if you suspect that someone is diverting your mail through false change of address forms;
- Consider telling your employer, as an added precaution;
- Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents. You may also wish to contact a privacy or consumer advocacy group; and
- In some cases, it may be advisable to seek the assistance of a lawyer;
Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Ontario Provincial Police
Identity Theft 911 (IDT911)
Related IPC documents: