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Personal Information and Identity Theft Cyber Security Awareness Month - Newsletter Week One

Whether you know it or not, your computer is filled with Personal Information about you. If your computer was stolen or this information got into the wrong hands, your identity may be at risk. By assuming your identity, it can become easy for someone to access your:

  • email
  • online shopping accounts
  • banking accounts
  • credit card accounts
  • CRA account or My Service Canada account

How people can gain access to it?

While direct theft of your computer is not common, it is far more likely that your personal information will be stolen through one of the many data breaches that occur, malware being installed on your computer/cell phone, or through phishing attempts.

Data breaches are becoming increasingly more frequent as companies such as Capital One, Doordash, Equifax and others have lost names, addresses, phone numbers, postal codes, email addresses, birthdates and even the social insurance numbers of many of their users.

Malware that could include Trojans, viruses, key-loggers, screen scrapers, spyware, adware, and others can also be unknowingly installed on your computer by downloading torrents or other files from unsafe sources. These malicious softwares will collect data, including browsing history, location, even stored credentials, from your computer and send it to an unknown third-party for the intent of monetizing the stolen information either through direct use or underground distribution.

Phishing attempts are when a scammer uses an authentic-looking email from a legitimate business or individual to trick recipients into giving out sensitive personal information, such as a credit card numbers, Social Insurance Numbers or other sensitive information. Typically, these spoofed messages urge the recipient to click on a link to update their personal profile, use their password or carry out some transaction.

How it can impact you?

When your information gets stolen, individuals can gain access to your financial accounts, hack into your online accounts, and/or defraud others. Once they access your personal information, identity thieves can also:

  • spend or transfer money from your accounts
  • send spam or phishing emails to your contacts on your behalf
  • open new bank accounts in your name
  • change your passwords and contact information for your online accounts
  • apply for loans, credit cards and benefits in your name
  • purchase a new cell phone through Roger or Bell
  • rent an apartment or car

What is the worst that can happen?

In addition to the financial costs of having your identity stolen, there are also additional costs that are not always immediately clear. As an individual, your credit rating can be severely tarnished that will impact your ability to purchase a car or get the financing you need for an apartment, condo or house.

Another form of identity theft is when someone sets up accounts on social media channels or websites using your name, image and/or other information. While this may not cause harm to your financial accounts, it can harm your reputation which can be a difficult thing to fix. Fraudulent activity associated to your name can show up in if you are applying for a job and it may affect not only your employment but also your feelings of self-worth. Criminal identity theft could lead to your arrest before you’re able to clear up the confusion.

Signs of Identity Theft

Many people find out they’ve been the victim of identity theft when they’re denied a loan, job or rent unexpectedly because of a credit check. Therefore, it’s very important to check your credit report once a year for errors or strange activities.

Other signs of identity theft include:

  • bills and statements don't arrive when they are supposed to — they may have been stolen from your mailbox or someone may have changed the mailing address for your accounts
  • you receive calls from collection agencies or creditors for an account you don't have
  • you receive notification from your bank, credit card or online business about a new account in your name, or added charges
  • financial account statements show withdrawals or transfers you didn't make
  • a creditor calls to say you've been approved or denied credit that you haven't applied for
  • Unusual transactions are showing up on your credit card

If Your Identity is Stolen

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have step-by-step advice on what to do if you have mistakenly provided your personal information to an unknown person.

If you think your financial accounts have been breached, you can pay to put an alert on your credit report. This can alert those checking your credit to make sure they are dealing with you and not an imposter.

How to Avoid Identity Theft

1. Safeguard personal information: Keep your personal information safe, particularly your Social Insurance Number (SIN) and credit card and bank account numbers. Provide personal information only if you have initiated the contact and you're sure with whom you are dealing. If you're purchasing an item online, make sure that the site is secure. The address should have the prefix "https" and show a padlock.

2. Protect your passwords: Use different passwords for your credit card, bank and telephone accounts. Don't write them down or disclose them to anyone. And do not save credentials in computer applications, and browsers. Avoid accessing sensitive information from a shared/public device. When available, take advantage of multi-factor authentication or use a password vault.

3. Ensure computer and Internet security: Equip your computer with a "firewall," which prevents outsiders from accessing the data on your computer. Deal only with reputable, established companies when using the Internet for credit card purchases or banking transactions. Ensure that you are running updated antivirus software capable of catching malware that is inadvertently downloaded to your computer.

Credits:

Information in this newsletter is credited to Government of Canada, CIBC, TrendMicro and DataEconomy. Created with images by ChristophMeinersmann - "privacy policy it computer" • freestocks.org - "untitled image" • Austin Distel - "The life of an online entrepreneur. If you use this photo on your site, I would be very appreciative if you would please credit in the caption or meta to "www.distel.co". Model: @Austindistel https://www.instagram.com/austindistel/ Photographer: @breeandstephen https://www.instagram.com/breeandstephen/ " • lukasbieri - "youtuber blogger screenwriter" • gagnonm1993 - "hacking coding code" • katielwhite91 - "ransomware cybersecurity cyber"