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The best protection against identity theft is you

Identity theft is rampant and it’s important to protect yourself. If you suspect something unusual is going on with your personal information, follow these steps:

1. Report It

Identity theft techniques can range from complex computer spywares and viruses, designed to help thieves acquire personal information, to unsophisticated schemes such as telephone scams, dumpster diving and mail theft.

The first step to recovery when your personal information is being misused is to notify both credit bureaus (TransUnion and Equifax), your bank, your creditors, the local police as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC).

The credit bureaus and your financial institutions will immediately review your accounts and add notes to your personal file to specifically block any credit request. The police will open up an investigation with their cyber crimes team. The CAFC will also begin an investigation.

2. Cancel accounts and create new passwords

The next step is to cancel your existing bank accounts and credit cards, and open up new ones. You’ll then set up new PINs and passwords for these accounts.

According to Daniel Tobok of Cytelligence, the single best way to prevent a cyber criminal from doing more damage than they already have is to create rock-solid passwords and change them monthly.

Specifically, mix in a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Avoid saving your passwords anywhere unless it’s with a secure encryption program and avoid using common phrases or words closely associated to you. Last, use a two-factor identification process such as a password plus a security question or a password plus a secure code texted to your mobile device.

3. Monitor credit

Credit monitoring through the credit bureaus, or through a monitoring service like CreditKarma, is a best-practice for most Canadians. Credit monitoring will alert you of credit inquiries and unusual activities.

The best protection against identity theft is you. Be mindful about what you share with people you don’t know, and avoid leaving your personal belongings unattended.