My neighbour just told me that he is a victim of identity theft. What is identity theft, and how can I avoid becoming a victim?

Question: 
My neighbour just told me that he is a victim of identity theft. What is identity theft, and how can I avoid becoming a victim?
Answer: 

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information (name, address, date of birth, Social Insurance Number, bank account PINs, etc.) without your knowledge or consent. Identity thieves will empty your bank accounts, run your charge cards up to their limit, and may even take out new loans in your name.

To protect yourself, you need to protect your personal information. Here are some tips:

  • Shred all documents that contain personal information.
  • Don't leave mail in your mailbox (have a neighbour pick it up if you are gone), and keep it in a secure place.
  • Never lend your credit card or debit card, or give your PIN number to someone.
  • Cover your hand when entering your PIN number in public places.
  • Don't give personal information over the phone, through the mail, or on social networking sites like Facebook.
  • If you are entering personal information on a website (for example, if you are doing online banking or shopping), make sure that the site is secure: look for a lock symbol and “https://…” at the start of the website address.
  • Review your bank statements and credit card statements when they arrive to make sure there is not unauthorized activity on your account.

You can get more information about identity theft from Ontario's Ministry of Consumer Services at http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/en/Pages/Identity_Theft.aspx. You can also get more information from the webinar, Identity Theft: An Overview.

This Common Question was prepared by Community Law School (Sarnia-Lambton) Inc. in partnership with Your Legal Rights, a project of CLEO.

Resource notes: 

Please note that we at CLEO cannot give legal advice or help you with a specific legal problem. Please visit our Find Services section to help find key legal and community services in your area, including your local community legal clinic. This section will lead you to a wide range of services that you can sort by region, legal topic, or type of organization.

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