Agencies Working Together To Combat Identity Theft
SERVICE N.S./MUNICIPAL RELATIONS--Agencies Working Together To Combat Identity Theft
Government and law enforcement agencies are urging consumers to be on the lookout for warning signs that they could be a victim of Canada's fastest growing crime: identity theft.
Identity theft happens when someone uses another person's personal information to commit a crime, without their knowledge or consent.
"Identity thieves steal key pieces of personal information and use it to impersonate you and commit crimes," said Barry Barnet, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. "In addition to names, addresses and phone numbers, thieves look for social insurance numbers, driver licence numbers, credit card and banking information, debit cards, calling cards, birth certificates and passports. They may physically steal important documents or simply copy the information and use it, with the victim being none the wiser."
Once they steal the information, identity thieves can manipulate it and invade the victim's personal and financial life. They use stolen identities to open new bank accounts and apply for loans or credit cards; go on spending sprees; divert mail such as income assistance or benefit cheques; rent apartments and even commit more serious crimes. And, once arrested, they may even use the victim's identity in the legal system.
In Nova Scotia, the war on identity theft is gathering momentum.
A team of government, law enforcement and private organizations called PACT -- short for Prevention and Awareness of Crime and Theft -- is helping people protect themselves from identity theft. PACT members include Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, the RCMP and Halifax Regional Police, Competition Bureau Canada, the Seniors Secretariat, the Better Business Bureau and Aliant.
To raise awareness of identity theft and other forms of fraud, PACT mounts displays at large consumer shows and other popular venues.
"Identity theft is the fastest growing form of crime in the country," said Assistant Commissioner Ian Atkins, commanding officer for the RCMP in Nova Scotia. "Our commercial crime section is committed to working with partners locally, nationally and internationally to protect Nova Scotians from the personal, financial and criminal perils of identity theft."
As well, federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for consumer issues are playing a role in combatting identity theft. They recently published Tips for Reducing the Risk of Identity Theft, a brochure of helpful hints for consumers. The brochure is available online at the Service Nova Scotia website at www.servicens.ca/popular/ or in print by calling 1-800-670-4357.
Here are some of the warning signs of identity theft:
- Bills and statements don't arrive when they are supposed to; they may have been stolen from the mailbox or someone has changed the mailing address.
-- Collection agencies or creditors call about new and unexplained debts. The identity thief may have opened a new account in the victim's name, or added charges to an existing account.
- Financial account statements show withdrawals or transfers that the victim didn't make.
- A creditor tells the victim that they've been approved or denied credit that they didn't apply for. Or, they receive credit card statements for accounts they didn't establish.
- A person applies for credit and is turned down, for reasons that do not match their understanding of their financial situation.
Everyone can take steps to protect themselves from identity theft. For example, keep a tight rein on personal and financial information, keep computers and their contents safe and secure, and watch for the identity theft warning signs.
FOR BROADCAST USE:
The Nova Scotia government, police agencies and private organizations are working to protect consumers from identity theft.
That's when someone uses your identity, without your knowledge, and it's one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada.
Thieves use stolen identities to apply for loans and credit cards, cash government benefit cheques and other more serious crimes.
People should be on the lookout for signs that someone else is using their identity. These signs can include bills and statements going missing, being turned down for loans or credit cards, and calls from collection agencies.
For more information, visit the Service Nova Scotia website and click on the popular topics link.