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Identity Theft

Identity Theft in Canada – How to Stop Cybercrime and Credit Card Fraud

Identity theft is rising in Canada, opening the door to many other types of fraud. Technology is developing rapidly, and so are the ways Canadians can be targets of cybercrime. The financial and emotional effects of online fraud and identity theft can devastate victims. Understanding identity theft, how it can affect you and how to protect yourself is crucial as more of our lives move online.

Cybercrime in Canada

Cybercrime can affect individuals, businesses, government services, supply chains, and infrastructure. The impact on the Canadian economy is significant. In 2022, there were over 70,000 reports of cybercrime and $530 million stolen.  Experts believe the actual number of crimes and the amount stolen to be much higher. The estimated actual amount could be five billion dollars or more.

Identity theft affects individuals rather than businesses. There can be serious consequences to having your identity stolen. It can result in you becoming a victim of identity fraud, bank fraud or credit card fraud. It can also ruin your credit score and possibly lead to Bankruptcy.

Identity theft

So, what is identity theft, and why do criminals target your personal information? Thieves steal your personal information to commit fraud. Items like your Social Insurance Number, date of birth, driver’s license, and credit card numbers can all play a part in criminals being able to use your identity for their purposes.

There are several typical uses of stolen identity. These include using your information to make purchases, get tax refunds in your name or open new bank accounts. It can be challenging and time-consuming to get your money back if your accounts are used, or your tax return ends up in the hands of a criminal.

Identity theft can lead to identity fraud. Identity fraud is when criminals use your identity to commit fraud. They may attempt to commit bank fraud by getting loans or other types of credit in your name. Thieves sometimes use stolen identities to get passports, driver’s licenses or other government identification. They may also use your information to enter into contracts in your name.

How cybercriminals get your information

Criminals have many ways to steal your identity. Knowing how you could be a target of identity theft and what to watch for can save you a lot of grief in the long run—the methods used to steal your identity range from simple to very sophisticated.

Leaving a paper trail

Thieves will go through garbage and dumpsters to find information like credit card statements.  They can use the information to access your accounts. They will accept credit card offers you may have thrown away to open a credit card account. Stealing your mail, wallet, or purse can provide a goldmine of information to people who want to steal your identity.

Phone scams

The phone is another method cybercriminals use to get your information. They call you, claiming to be a charity, a government agency such as the police or the Canada Revenue Agency, or a relative in trouble. They may use AI (artificial intelligence) deep fakes to imitate the voice of a friend or loved one. The purpose of the call is to get you to give your credit card information or to get you to send them funds. They often demand you send the funds using a bank wire or email money transfer.

Online sites

Shopping online can lead to having your identity stolen. Fraudsters sometimes hack online shopping sites. After hacking the website, they steal your customer information. Most companies will alert you if their site has had a security breach.

Other sites can have their computer systems hacked. This can leave you vulnerable to identity theft. Hospitals and other government organizations will have your date of birth, address, and other information thieves can use. Recently, five Canadian hospitals were hacked, affecting the information of some staff and patients. The cyber breach also impacted the operations of the hospitals.

Phishing

Millions of emails are sent every day, but not all of them are legitimate. Phishing is when a fake email is sent to you, asking you to click on a link. The link will take you to a website and ask you to input information. The website usually looks identical to the company they are pretending to be.

A common phishing scam is an email that looks like it’s from your bank. Clicking the link will take you to a website that looks identical to your bank’s. The website will ask you to input information the cybercriminals will capture and use to commit fraud.

SMIshing and malware

SMIshing is similar to phishing, except it uses SMS or text messages to get your information. Some examples of a SMIshing message can be your subscription payment has been interrupted, the post office has a package for you they can’t deliver, or your bank is going to freeze your account if you don’t reply to the message. Clicking the link will lead to fraudulent websites trying to capture your information.

Malware is short for malicious software. Malware infects your computer and gives online fraudsters access to your computer. It can allow them to see what you are doing online. They can view your passwords and get into your accounts. It’s typically embedded in a file the website you’re visiting asks you to download.

Protecting yourself from online fraud

Canadians are increasingly aware of online fraud and how to protect themselves, which is excellent. Effective ways to protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft and fraud are:

  1. Guard your privacy closely. Destroy or carefully store all paperwork with personal information.
  2. Keep passwords private, change them frequently, and choose ones that are difficult to guess.
  3. Limit your usage of public Wi-Fi and change your passwords after using public Wi-Fi.
  4. Use a security system for your electronic devices.
  5. Make sure that when you share information, you are sharing it with a legitimate source.
  6. Only share information when you have initiated contact. If, for example, you get a text, email or phone call from someone saying they are your bank, do not provide any information. Instead, call the bank back with the contact number they provide on your bank card or their website.
  7. Resist the urge to respond to urgent requests. If a charity wants a donation, ask them to mail you information or visit their website to ensure they are legitimate and raising funds. If you get a call from someone claiming to be the police, use the official number to return the call. Cybercriminals can make their fake numbers look legitimate on call display.
  8. Sign up for a credit monitoring service. Equifax and Transunion offer services to monitor your credit report. They’ll alert you if there is suspicious activity on your credit report.
  9. Check if your home insurance company offers credit protection or identity theft coverage. Insurance coverage for identity theft can reimburse you for financial losses up to a maximum amount.
  10. If you’ve been a victim of fraud or suspect you might be, report it to the police.

Where to Get Help

Monitoring your finances to protect yourself from online fraud is crucial. Cybercriminals will drain your bank accounts, use your credit cards and open accounts in your name. Thieves can leave you broke and deeply in debt.

We can help you with your debt, regardless of whether it results from personal circumstances or fraud. Our Licensed Insolvency Trustees at Adamson and Associates are experts in debt matters. Please contact us today at 519-310-5646 for a free consultation. We’ll work with you to find the best solution for your debt so you can recover financially.

John Adamson, CPA, CMA

John is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (1994), a Chartered Insolvency and Restructuring Professional (CIRP – 1994), and a Chartered Professional Accountant with a Certified Management Accounting designation (CPA, CMA – 1992). His experience includes more than 25 years of helping individuals, small businesses, their owners and even lenders, find solutions to their debt problems.

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