thef heft your credit repor eport Identity theft and by Diditfit


         thef                   eport
                   your credit repor
Identity theft and your credit report:
       you        to pro      ourself
 What you can do to protect yourself
                                          … Read on …

Identity theft can happen to anyone. And when         Canadian insurance company, a mutual fund
it does, the consequences can be both emotionally     company and at least eight other private sector
and financially devastating.                          firms. More than 180,000 customers of the
   It has been called the crime of the information    insurance company involved were warned of
age – the fastest growing form of consumer            the possibility of identity theft through a letter
fraud in North America. In 2002, PhoneBusters         issued immediately after the theft was discov-
reported 6,118 identity theft complaints in           ered. The hard drive contained such personal
Canada, amounting to $6,519,282 in losses. In         information as names, addresses, dates of birth,
the United States, the Federal Trade Commission       social insurance numbers, portfolio holdings
reports that identity theft is its No. 1 complaint,   and details of pension and insurance plans.
accounting for 43% of all complaints received,           Although situations will vary, this publication
and $343 million (U.S.) in consumer losses.           provides a general guide on what you should
   Seemingly every day, there are reports in the      do to protect your credit rating if your identity/
news about victims or potential victims of            identification has been stolen and you’ve
identity theft. In January 2003, more than a          become the victim of financial fraud. (For a
million individuals had their personal informa-       fuller discussion of other aspects of identity
tion compromised when a hard disk was stolen          theft and what you can do to lessen the chances
from a data management company, potentially           of becoming a victim, see the IPC paper, Iden-
the largest privacy breach in North America.          tity Theft: Who’s Using Your Name (June 1997),
Among the individuals affected were clients of        which also provides a checklist of what you
several provincial government agencies, a large       should do in the event that it does happen to you.)

 INFORMATION AND PRIVACY COMMISSIONER/ONTARIO                                          Revised February 2003

Your credit rating                                    will greatly help to decrease any further impact
                                                      on one’s life as a result of fraudulent actions
A poor credit rating caused by someone imper-
                                                      taken by impostors. Calling your credit bureau
sonating you – using your identification, running
                                                      is a critical step.
up bills and racking up charges on your credit
                                                         Note that as a precautionary measure, even if
cards – can create significant financial problems
                                                      you have not been a victim of identity theft, it
and may take many months or even years to
                                                      is always a good practice to annually request
correct. If you should become a victim, it is vital
                                                      copies of your credit reports from both Equifax
that you quickly advise the credit bureaus
                                                      and TransUnion, to check for possible errors or
because your credit worthiness may be in peril.
                                                      inaccuracies – you have this right under the
Timing is critical – identity thieves often act
                                                      Consumer Reporting Act. This may be done,
quickly and repeatedly.
                                                      free of charge, via mail, or for a fee via the
  Once you are aware that you have become
                                                      Internet. Copies of credit report request forms
the victim of identity theft, you should imme-
                                                      may be obtained by calling the “800” numbers
diately report this to the police. Then inform
                                                      or visiting the credit bureaus Web sites listed at
the credit bureaus, the financial institutions
                                                      the end of this paper.
you deal with and all creditors of the theft.
(Send the credit bureaus and banks a copy of
the police report.) Ensure you cancel all existing    If your identity is stolen
credit cards, accounts, passwords and PINs,
                                                      Immediately contact both credit bureaus using
and replace them with new ones.
                                                      the “800" numbers listed at the end of this
About credit bureaus                                     Select the option from the voice message
                                                      menu that is for victims of fraud; this will
When you apply for credit, retailers and lending
                                                      connect you directly to a “fraud victim assistance
agencies verify the information from your credit
                                                      specialist.” Advise the specialist of your situa-
application through a credit-reporting agency,
                                                      tion – that your identification or identity has
called a credit bureau. Credit bureaus are private
                                                      been stolen or that you are being impersonated.
institutions that serve retailers and other credit
                                                      Request that the credit bureau attach a “fraud
grantors by providing them with information
                                                      alert” to your file. A fraud alert is a “red flag”
about your credit record. The credit grantors
                                                      on your credit report, which will identify you
then use this information to verify and assess
                                                      as a potential fraud victim to credit grantors.
your credit worthiness.
                                                         The specialist will immediately attach the
  In Ontario, there are two credit bureaus,
                                                      fraud alert and then:
Equifax Canada and TransUnion of Canada.
Both are governed by the Ontario Consumer             • review your credit file with you on the
Reporting Act. Both also have fraud victim              telephone; this is to ensure that you have a
assistance specialists who advise on the steps          complete list of your creditors so that you
that need to be taken with respect to one’s             can contact them directly and advise that
credit file. Although not foolproof, these steps        you are a victim of identity theft. It is up to

   you to contact all creditors directly, not the                     Contact information
   credit bureau. The review of your credit file
                                                                      Contact information for both credit bureaus is
   will also reveal any credit enquires on your
                                                                      listed below. For future reference, mailing
   file. If an enquiry cannot be confirmed by
                                                                      addresses are also provided below, but it is
   you, then the credit bureau will investigate
                                                                      strongly recommended that you initiate contact
                                                                      by telephone, as this will allow the fraud alert
• advise that you may also attach a short                             to be placed on your file immediately, and for
  statement to your file – this statement may                         the fraud victim specialists to discuss your file
  say something like, “My identification has                          with you.
  been stolen. Contact me directly at this                               It is imperative that you take action.
  number before extending any credit.”
                                                                      Equifax Canada
   After you have spoken to the specialist, you                       1-800-465-7166 (for callers inside Canada)
will be sent a copy of your credit report. With                        or 514-493-2314
TransUnion, you will also be sent a form to fill                      Fraud Victim Assistance Group
out (Equifax does not send a form.) The purpose                       P.O. Box 190, Station Jean Talon
of the form is to provide formal authorization                        Montreal, Quebec, H1S 2Z2
to TransUnion to place an “alert” message on                          Fax: 514-355-8502
your file. The form is called a fraud victim                          E-mail:
authorization form. Complete and return this                          Web site:
form as soon as possible.
   It is recommended that you follow up with                          TransUnion of Canada
both credit bureaus in three months and request                       1-800-663-9980 (for callers inside Canada)
a copy of your credit report to again review and                       or 905-525-4420
report on any fraudulent, false or incorrect                          Fraud Victim Assistance Department
information.                                                          Box 338, LCD1
   There is no cost to the consumer for any of                        Hamilton, Ontario, L8L 7W2
the above services.                                                   Fax: 905-527-0401
                                                                      Web site:

                If you wanted to know…                                Communications Department
                                                                      Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario    20% recycled
                is published by the Office of the Information         80 Bloor Street West, Suite 1700               including 20%
                and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario.                     Toronto, Ontario M5S 2V1                       post-consumer
                                                                      Telephone: 416-326-3333 • 1-800-387-0073
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