Identity Theft Risks Continue: Personal Protection Steps Offered

No matter where you live, identity theft scams are universally designed to either steal money immediately or steal identities and private information now so the thieves can steal money later.

Cybercriminals have many different techniques to collect personally identifiable information (PII). Once they have it, they can effectively become you, using your identity to open accounts, file taxes, or obtain medical coverage. They can make false applications for loans and credit cards, withdraw money from your bank account, or obtain services in your name. They can also sell your information to others on the internet.

Identity theft may take a long time to detect. Scammers typically ensure that bills and statements for new accounts are not sent to your address. You may not notice what is happening until the scammer has already inflicted substantial damage on your assets, credit, and reputation.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, it is very important to act quickly. In the U.S., visit identitytheft.gov for information on how to stop and recover from identity theft. In Canada, the Anti-Fraud Center has information on identity theft and a free credit report can be requested through the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. "BBB: How to spot and avoid identity theft" www.wisbusiness.com (Feb. 02, 2022).

Commentary and Checklist

A new survey report from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) revealed that most Canadians now refuse to provide their personal information in exchange for access to free online services. The publication of the “2020 Canadians Deserve a Better Internet Report” disclosed that, except for online banking services (52 percent), most Canadians stated that they are unwilling to share their sensitive data for better products and services online. Only 26 percent of respondents admitted that they are willing to give personal information in return for better video streaming services. Around 23 percent of Canadians stated that they disclose personal details to use social media services, and 15 percent are willing to share personal data for access to internet-connected devices such as baby monitors.

The 2020 survey is remarkable in that only last year, in 2019, 72 percent of Canadians said they were willing to disclose some or a little personal information in exchange for valuable content or service.

One year later, except for online banking services, 74 percent said they would not share that information for better video streaming services, and 78 percent said they would not do so for a better social media experience. Finally, 83 percent were unwilling to share their data for digital advertising purposes.

The best defense against cybercriminals in the workplace (and at home) is to be proactive. Treat your and your employees’ personal information like the valuable commodity it is.

Make sure you have a shredding policy for any documents that have bank account information, Social Security/Social Insurance number, or other employee or organizational private information. These include credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, billing statements from utilities, or phone services. Cut up expired credit and debit cards, making sure to cut through the numbers, before disposing of them.

Scammers are sophisticated and their phishing attempts may come via email, text, social media message, even phone calls. Train your employees to be suspicious of any unsolicited communication asking for personal or organizational confidential information.

Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey: