Internet Safety Tips: Combat Spam, Spyware and Phishing


The use of stolen personal information to impersonate someone, generally for financial fraud purposes. An identity theft may involve impersonating a victim to gain access to existing bank accounts or take out bank loans, or for other fraudulent purposes.

What to Do if You Become a Victim of Identity Theft

The Consumer Measures Committee (CMC) advises that you take the following steps as soon as you discover the identity theft:

  • Contact each financial institution, credit card issuer or other company that provided the identity thief with unauthorized credit, money, goods or services. Tell them what happened, and ask them to investigate the occurrence, cancel and re-issue any cards that were affected, and close any fraudulent or affected accounts. Also find out:

    • Does the company require written documentation to begin investigating your claim of identity theft?
    • Do they accept the Identity Theft Statement?
    • Do they require any additional information?

  • Complete the Identity Theft Statement and/or any other required documentation and provide it to the company as soon as possible.

  • Contact both of Canada's national credit reporting agencies, Trans Union Canada and Equifax Canada. Ask each agency to send you a copy of your credit report, and discuss with them whether you should have a fraud alert placed on your file, asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing accounts. The credit report may reveal whether there are other companies where the identity thief has opened accounts or incurred debt in your name.

  • Report the incident to your local police department. Ask the police to take a report, if possible, and to give you the report number. If the police report is available, include it in all correspondence with financial institutions, credit issuers, other companies and credit reporting agencies.

  • Report the incident to PhoneBusters National Call Centre, which has a mandate to gather information and intelligence about identity theft, and will provide advice and assistance to identity theft victims. You can call PhoneBusters toll free at 1-888-495-8501.

  • If your government-issued documents were lost or stolen, report them to the responsible ministry or department and request new documents.

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Steps to Reduce your Risk of Identity Theft

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada suggests steps you can take to reduce your risk of identity theft

The societal and personal costs of identity theft can be significant, but there are some basic steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Protect your computer by using a firewall, anti-virus software and other security measures. An increasingly common practice is the use of malicious code (viruses, worms and Trojan horses) to acquire the personal information needed to commit identity theft.

  • Always be suspicious of e-mails from financial institutions, Internet service providers and other organizations asking you to provide personal information online. Reputable firms generally do not ask for personal information in this manner, but if you are at all uncertain, look up their phone number in the phone directory and call them. Clues to fraudulent e-mails include lack of personal greetings and spelling or grammatical errors. Under no circumstances should you click on any links in the e-mail or cut and paste them into your browser - chances are the link will take you to a fake website.

  • Identity theft does not solely take place online. Protect your mail - place outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove incoming mail from your mail box. Get into the habit of shredding or destroying pre-approved credit card, insurance or loan applications, bills, credit card receipts - anything that contains your personal information - when no longer needed. Also, get into the habit of checking your credit report on an annual basis - the major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada) will provide one free report each year.

  • Do not give out personal information over the phone, unless you know the person to whom you are speaking, or you initiated the call yourself. If someone calls with an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do not let them pressure you into disclosing personal information or making any other commitment - if they do pressure you, hang up.

  • If, for any reason, you believe or suspect that your personal information may have been compromised, contact the proper authorities (i.e., your bank, credit card issuer, credit reporting bureaus, utility provider, and so on) as soon as possible. Depending on the nature, extent and severity of the compromise, you should also consider contacting local law enforcement.