Keep your personal info on lockdown.
Canada experienced more than 50,300 fraud complaints in 2015, resulting in a total reported loss of nearly $60 million, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
When thieves obtain your personal information, they may be able to open a credit card in your name and rack up charges they don’t pay for, open a bank account and write bad cheques, or take an auto loan out in your name to buy a new car and default on the payments — all of which can have a lasting impact.
If your Social Insurance Number, debit and credit cards, and other info aren’t already on lockdown, take the following nine steps to help avoid becoming an identity theft victim:
- Don’t carry personal info you don’t need: Identity thieves could potentially steal your wallet or purse (or items from them) and gain access to your personal information — which is why you should never carry anything with your Social Insurance Number on it. Additionally, don’t write your account numbers, debit or credit card PINs, or any other passwords on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet. Only carry necessary identification, such as your driver’s licence and essential debit and credit cards ― leave your birth certificate, passport and other nonessential documents at home.
- Send bills safely: Prevent identity thieves from stealing bank account statements, credit card bills or other items from your mailbox by removing incoming mail as soon as possible. Consider switching to electronic statements and paying bills online. These two simple things may also help prevent mail theft. If you plan to be out of town, Canada Post®* recommends asking your local post office to put your mail on hold.
- Discard old documents safely: Shred credit card applications and any other items that contain personal information to help prevent them from being stolen from your trash. Additionally, if you’re purging your filing cabinet of financial or tax paperwork, be sure to discard them safely. If you don’t have your own shredder, you can find low-cost services at local businesses, like office supply stores, as well as mobile shredding trucks and shredding kiosks.
- Keep personal information private: In some cases, identity thieves reach out to potential victims through the phone or email and request personal information. You should only share your Social Insurance Number with a limited number of companies and organizations as per the Government of Canada.
- Pick savvy passwords: User IDs and passwords should be confidential and hard to guess. Avoid common passwords like your mother’s maiden name that thieves may be able to research and find. The Government of Canada suggests avoiding birthdays, names or other things that may be easy to guess — particularly facts someone could obtain from a social media site profile.
- Review terms: Make sure you understand the protection your financial institution and credit card companies automatically provide you, and how they advise you to stay safe, by checking out the security page on their websites. BMO, for example, offers a secure browsing experience, email encryption, 100% Electronic Banking Guarantee and more. Additionally, BMO clearly states that it will never contact customers to ask for personal or account information via email. Knowing how your bank or credit card company will — and won’t — reach out to you can help you avoid phishing schemes to get your Social Insurance Number, user ID, passwords, PINs or other information, typically considered to be an online form of identity theft.
- Consider Protective Software: To help protect you from online fraud and identity theft, BMO offers our customers a free download of IBM®# Trusteer Rapport®# Rapport protects the connection between BMO® Online Banking and your computer against common online threats. The software will caution you if you have accessed a site that is not an actual BMO Online Banking site. Rapport is easy to install and use, and works with your existing firewall and anti-virus protection to protect your computer. You can download the software here.
- Keep an eye out for issues: Review your financial statements on a regular basis and question any transactions that look unfamiliar. If a statement is late, contact your financial institution. It’s also a good idea to check your credit report at least once a year for incorrect information, unknown accounts or addresses, or an odd number of inquiries. You can get a free copy each year from Canada’s biggest credit reporting companies — TransUnion®† and Equifax®‡. If anything looks odd, contact these agencies as soon as possible. You can also sign up for a consumer fraud alert that will require creditors to contact you whenever a new account is opened in your name.
- Report missing cards ASAP: Notify financial institutions about any lost or stolen cheques, debit cards or credit cards immediately. (To contact BMO, call 1-877-225-5266 or stop by a BMO Branch during business hours to speak with a branch employee.)
If you discover you’ve been a victim of identity theft, report the incident through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. You can also get more tips on how to protect your information on BMO’s identity protection and online safety resource page.
®* Registered trademark of Canada Post Corporation
®# Trusteer and Trusteer Rapport are trademarks or registered trademarks of Trusteer, an IBM Company. “IBM” is a registered trademark of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States and other countries
®† Registered trademark of TRANSUNION, LLC
®‡ Registered trademark or EQUIFAX SERVICES, LTD.