Protect yourself from identity theft

It is impossible to prevent identity theft completely, but you can reduce the risks.

Many people become victims of identity theft every year. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports that more than 17,000 people lost $13 million due to this type of crime in 2011 alone. It is impossible to prevent identity theft completely, but we can reduce the risks.

Swindlers use the telephone, e-mail, fax, and even the regular mail to achieve their goals. Be on your guard any time you are asked for personal information, such as your name, birthdate, address, social insurance number, credit card number, or any other private information. Be cautious, ask questions, and do some research before divulging anything, especially if you didn’t initiate the contact.

Your personal identification number (PIN) should never be divulged for any reason. Think about changing the PIN for your credit or debit card on a regular basis. Above all, don’t use your date of birth for your PIN. And all documents containing personal or financial information, such as bills and bank and credit card statements, should be thoroughly shredded before they are put in the garbage or recycling.

Social networks are particularly attractive to swindlers. Your new “friends” may not be as they appear. The fewer details you give about your private life, the better. Never give your telephone number or address through a social network. If you have to give personal information on the Internet, such as for the purchase of something, ensure that the site is secure. Verify that the “https://” is still present in the URL and look for the padlock icons that promise a secure Internet transaction.