Ensuring Your Privacy is Protected

Personal information, your privacy and identity theft

Protecting your privacy means protecting your personal information from misuse by others. While the IPC holds Ontario public sector institutions accountable for the personal information in their care, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself, such as, minimizing the exposure of your personal information available to others, both online and off, and recognizing the signs of being a victim.

What is identity theft?

 What is identity theft?

Identity theft refers to the collection or acquisition of someone else’s personal information to conduct criminal activities. Identity fraud is the actual use of another person’s information in connection with fraud. This includes impersonation and the misuse of debit or credit card information.

In addition to basic information like name, address and telephone number, identity thieves look for:

  • identity document information, such as birth certificates, passports, Social Insurance, driver’s licence, and health card numbers
  • financial information, such as bank account and credit card details
  • biographical information, such as birth dates and mothers’ maiden names
  • online account usernames and passwords, such as for email and social networking sites

This personal information enables an identity thief to commit various forms of fraud using your identity, such as:

  • access your bank accounts
  • apply for loans, credit cards and other goods and services
  • obtain new identity documents, such as passports
  • receive government benefits
  • hide their criminal activities

Fraud committed in your name can take months or years to correct. Meanwhile, the potential consequences can be serious: poor credit ratings; ruined reputations; lost jobs and other opportunities; services denied, and even loss of freedom to travel.

Identity theft and fraud are serious crimes that claim thousands of victims each year.

How can my identity get stolen?

How can my identity get stolen?

Identity thieves use a variety of methods to obtain personal information.

Low-tech methods include:

  • Searching through the garbage
  • Stealing or re-directing postal mail.
  • Pretending to be someone else and requesting it, for example, telemarketing schemes
  • Opportunistic theft: accessing personal information sent to the wrong fax number, email address or voice mailbox.

High-tech methods include:

  • Searching the internet; “friending” you on social media
  • Hacking ATMs and point-of-sale devices to steal your payment card information.
  • Installing malware on your personal computing devices
  • Tricking you into visiting fraudulent websites via phishing messages
  • Intercepting and eavesdropping on your wifi communications

How do I minimize the risk of identity theft?

How do I minimize the risk of identity theft?

The following steps can help minimize the risks associated with identity theft and fraud:

LIMIT YOUR EXPOSURE

  • Redirect your mail, or have it held for you while you are away
  • Carry only essential ID such as your driver’s license and health card. Leave your social insurance card, passport and birth certificate at home.
  • Minimize the amount of personal information you disclose, share or post online..
  • Do not provide sensitive personal information over the phone unless it is to a trusted person, or if you initiated the call yourself.
  • Understand and configure the privacy and security settings on your computers, mobile devices and online applications
  • Shred papers and properly dispose of electronic media.

SECURE

  • Store sensitive documents in a secure place
  • Use a locked mailbox
  • Create and use unique and strong passwords
  • Use encryption when communicating and storing data
  • Keep your computer security software up-to-date

ACT

  • Review bills and statements for unusual activity
  • Monitor account activity and bank balances
  • Obtain and review your credit reports each year
  • Don’t reply to suspicious emails, instant messages, or texts
  • When providing your information in any context, keep in mind the five Ws:
    • Who wants it and who will have access to it?
    • Why do they want it?
    • What will it be used for?
    • Where will it be stored?
    • When will it be used and when will it be discarded?

I’m a victim of identity theft, what do I do?

I’m a victim of identity theft, what do I do?

NOTIFY

  • Keep a copy of the police/occurrence report.
  • Businesses where you recently made transactions
  • Credit Bureaus. Have your credit reports annotated or “frozen.”
  • Credit card companies. Cancel your existing credit cards and accounts and have a fraud alert placed on your accounts.
  • Your insurance provider, if you have identity theft insurance
  • Post office. If you suspect someone is diverting your mail through false change of address forms.
  • Your employer, particularly if you are paid via direct deposit.

LOG

  • Keep a log of all your contacts
  • Make copies of all documents.
  • Document all the steps you have taken and your expenses to clear your name and re-establish your credit.

SEEK ADVICE

  • In some cases, it may be advisable to seek the assistance of a lawyer.
  • For information held by Ontario public sector institutions such as provincial ministries and agencies, municipalities, schools, colleges, universities and health care providers, you can file a complaint or contact us.
  • For information held by the federal government or collected by private sector companies contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Who can help if I become a victim of identity theft?

Who can help if I become a victim of identity theft?

There are several agencies that can provide advice and information about identity theft:

  • The Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre offers expert advice to Canadians who have become victims of identity theft.
  • The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is the central agency in Canada that collects information and criminal intelligence on such matters as mass marketing fraud (i.e. telemarketing), Internet fraud and identity theft complaints.

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