Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in Canada, and it has serious consequences.
Nursing student Daniela Everaars learned that fact all too well when her identity was stolen recently.
“I felt exposed, not safe at all,” said Everaars.
The 21-year-old’s nightmare began when thieves broke into her community mailbox and stole her CareCard.
“I never thought you could do that much damage with just a CareCard,” Everaars said.
Within two weeks, the person who stole her identity was able to use her name and withdraw $2,400 from her bank account, apply for two loans and 10 credit cards, Everaars said.
“You hear about this in the news, but you never expect it’s going to be you,” she said.
Criminals can steal your identity by unsophisticated means such as dumpster diving, or more sophisticated schemes, according to the RCMP.
They’re after your personal information such as your name, your birthday, social insurance number (SIN), mother’s maiden name, credit card information and passport number.
Once they have that, criminals can apply for credit cards, loans, make online purchases, access bank accounts, even collect government benefits.
“It’s a lot more prevalent than people think. The physical side of stealing the cards has been around forever and it happens on a very regular basis. The online side is massive,” said Mike Knapp, a cybersecurity expert with Incrementa Consulting.
Knapp added, “always be careful with your identity information. It could be as simple as covering your PIN when using your bank card or credit card, to carrying a limited number of cards with you. When going online, be careful who you register your personal information with.”
Police eventually tracked down and arrested the female suspect who stole Daniela Everaars’ identity.
Still, Everaars said she’s concerned now that someone else has had access to her personal information.
“I worry she knows where I live and will do more damage,” she said.
If you do become a victim of identity theft, call police and file a police report.
In addition, call your bank and credit card company.
“The first thing anyone should do is report the information to Equifax and TransUnion. Those two organizations handle all of the credit requests,” said Knapp.