The painful price of identity theftSeptember 4, 2018
To the fraudster who used my name to get a Costco credit card: I hope you’re enjoying the big-screen TV, lifetime supply of toilet paper or whatever you spent $3,406.25 on during that two-day shopping spree last spring.
Thankfully, I’m not on the hook for your haul, but I’m paying the price nonetheless, feeling angry and violated, not to mention confounded by how you got hold of my particulars.
I learned about your duplicity — as did a number of my Toronto Star colleagues, both current and former employees who were similarly targeted — after Capital One Canada, the financial services and credit card company that issued the unauthorized Mastercard, sent me a letter about a “possible fraudulent account.” (For the record, I’ve never even set foot inside a Costco store.)
Capital One, which has assumed liability, wouldn’t say what tipped them off other than “robust fraud defence mechanisms” that came into play.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, last year 9,657 Canadians filed complaints about identity theft — the initial step of acquiring personal information for criminal purposes. As well, 29,020 people complained about identity fraud — the actual use of stolen information — with losses totalling almost $12 million.
Credit cards are a popular target of miscreants, who either exploit an existing account or open a new one in someone else’s name.
In the latest survey by Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, credit cards accounted for 75 per cent of the cases of financial fraud reported by respondents. Debit cards came in second at 24 per cent.
The random sampling of 1,000 Canadians, of whom 35 per cent reported having been a fraud victim, revealed growing fears of identity theft. It’s a justifiable concern, according to Doretta Thompson, CPA Canada’s director of corporate citizenship.
“The threat of fraud is constant,” she told the Star in an email. “We now live so much of our lives — personal, professional and commercial — online, and whether we are aware of it or not, we leave (digital) bread crumbs everywhere.”
Insidious crooks will also steal mail, raid trash cans and engage in “shoulder surfing” — peeking at your PIN at ATMs and credit/debit machines — in their hunt for such details as birth date, social insurance number, mother’s maiden name, driver’s licence number and personal information numbers.
“People need to protect their personal information diligently,” says Thompson. She advises never sharing it without verifying “who you are dealing with and what they are using the information for.”
If you do become a victim, it means you will likely have to sort out a mess with banks, lenders or credit card companies. You will also need to…