Identity theft occurs when your personal or financial information is stolen and used by another entity to make purchases, file taxes, get benefits, or commit fraud. If you are a victim of identity theft, you will likely experience shock, confusion, and fear that someone got past your security systems.
While there isn’t much you can do personally to catch the perpetrator, you can fix any credit report errors, unauthorised charges, or any accounts opened in your name.
Here’s how to go about repairing your credit after identity theft:
Step 1: Contact the credit bureaus for copies of your credit report and more
Contact the big credit bureaus – Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada – and inform them that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud. Then request a copy of your credit report, and ask them to place a sign saying “Fraud Warning” on your credit documents telling creditors to get in touch with you before opening up new accounts without your consent. The warnings will remain on your file for 6 years.
Step 2: Review your credit reports
Look for any suspicious or wrong information on your credit report, including creditors who made enquiries on your credit report when you know you didn’t ask for credit, or those who opened accounts that you hadn’t requested.
If there are any, contact the creditors, inform them of your identity theft case, and then ask them to decline any new accounts you didn’t request, and to close any accounts opened without your consent.
Step 3: Contact the local law enforcement
Report the theft of your personal and financial information to the local police. Don’t leave until you get a report number of your case for future reference. You will probably need to provide proof of fraud before the affected banks and creditors can erase debts resulting from the identity theft incident. Keep in mind that the role of the police is to investigate the crime and to lay charges, not to recover the money you lost. You should disclose any suspicious information found on your credit report to assist with the investigation.
Step 4: Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Report the fraud or theft to the CAFC by dialling 1-888-485-8501, or by visiting their website. They assist investigators by providing information on other identity theft and internet fraud cases to try and establish connections that lead to arrests.
Step 5: Review your bank and credit card statements
If there are suspicious transactions on your bank or credit card statement, download the Identity Theft Statement from the CAFC website, fill it, and submit it to all affected financial institutions/credit card issuers.
Step 6: Change the passwords of affected financial accounts
Contact all your banks, creditors, and credit card companies and request them to close all affected accounts, get you a new account number and PIN, stop any payments, and add a password to your account.
Keep track of all action taken by law enforcement, your financial institution, and any other agencies handling your case. It will take awhile to correct the mess left behind. If you’re struggling with your finances, you might need to consider debt consolidation services.