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Safeguard Your Money: How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Mar 1, 2013) - Many people have heard about identity theft, but most think it is something that happens to others. The reality is that identity theft affects thousands of Canadians and much of it can be prevented.

March is Fraud Prevention Month, and the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) is reminding consumers to guard their identity, including personal and financial information, from criminals to help protect themselves from financial fraud.

"Identity theft, or the theft of personal information, can be the starting point to a range of crimes - from financial fraud and forgery to insurance fraud. That is why combating identity theft requires the cooperation and efforts of business, law enforcement, individual consumers and government," said William J. Crate, Director, Security & Intelligence at the Canadian Bankers Association. "Consumers should be vigilant about protecting their information and there are some very simple steps that they can take to do this."

Identity Theft Prevention Tips

Banks and other businesses have sophisticated security systems in place to protect their customers'' personal and financial information. Criminals know these strong protections are very difficult to overcome, so they try to get confidential information directly from consumers.

To avoid becoming a victim, it is important for Canadians to understand what kinds of scams are out there and how they can protect themselves. Some helpful tips from the CBA include:

  • Do not give out personal information on the phone, through mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know who you''re dealing with. For example, most bank account takeovers begin with customers responding to disguised and fraudulent "phishing" e-mails which appear to be from financial institutions indicating there may be a problem with your account and seeking personal information for confirmation purposes. Banks will not contact you by e-mail to ask you to reconfirm any of your personal information or passwords. They already have that information.

  • Keep the amount of identification that you carry with you to a minimum. For example, do not carry your birth certificate or social insurance card with you unless you will need them. Keep them at home in a secure place.

  • Watch what you throw out or recycle. An identity thief will pick through your garbage or recycling bins. Be sure to shred receipts, tax returns, financial statements or anything with personal or financial information.

  • Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don''t arrive on time. 

  • Try not to use your social insurance card as a form of identification. Use other identification whenever possible. 

What to Do When Identity Theft Happens

If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, here are some important actions to take: 

  • Contact your bank or credit card issuer right away - the bank will take the appropriate steps to help prevent fraud. These steps could include cancelling and reissuing credit or debit cards, investigating and reversing fraudulent transactions and providing further advice to customers.

  • Contact local police - contact your local police force and file a report about the fraud.

  • Contact Canada''s credit reporting agencies - If you suspect that you may have been a victim of identity theft, contact one of Canada''s two credit reporting agencies, Equifax and TransUnion, and have a fraud alert put on your credit file. This may mean that the next time you apply for credit, you may be asked additional questions to verify who you are. This could help prevent someone else from taking out a loan or credit card in your name.

The CBA has released a fraud prevention video aimed at educating Canadians about the precautions they can take to prevent being a victim of identity theft. The video can be found on the CBA''s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/CdnBankers) and the association is also issuing helpful tips and information through Twitter (@CdnBankers) and its website www.cba.ca throughout the month of March.

About the Fraud Prevention Forum

The Fraud Prevention Forum is a concerned group of private sector firms, consumer and volunteer groups, government agencies and law enforcement organizations, who are committed to fighting fraud aimed at consumers and businesses. Through its partners, the Forum, which is chaired by the Competition Bureau, works to prevent Canadians from becoming victims of fraud by educating them on how to "Recognize it. Report it. Stop it." 

About the Canadian Bankers Association

The Canadian Bankers Association works on behalf of 54 domestic banks, foreign bank subsidiaries and foreign bank branches operating in Canada and their 274,000 employees. The CBA advocates for effective public policies that contribute to a sound, successful banking system that benefits Canadians and Canada''s economy. The Association also promotes financial literacy to help Canadians make informed financial decisions and works with banks and law enforcement to help protect customers against financial crime and promote fraud awareness. www.cba.ca.

Follow the CBA on Twitter: @CdnBankers

Watch videos: Youtube.com/CdnBankers

Follow the CBA on LinkedIn