7 Tips to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Simple precautions can help you avoid problems

Identity theft is a growing trend in our increasingly technological society. Take time to ensure that everyone in your family is aware of the following protective strategies.

1. Safeguard personal information

Keep your personal information safe, particularly your Social Insurance Number (SIN) and credit card and bank account numbers. Provide personal information only if you have initiated the contact and you're absolutely sure with whom you are dealing. If you're purchasing an item online, make sure that the site is secure. The address should have the prefix "https" and show a padlock.

2. Protect your passwords

Use different passwords for your credit card, bank and telephone accounts. Don't write them down or disclose them to anyone.

3. Be credit card smart

Carry only the personal information and credit cards which you actually need.

4. Secure your mail

Shred or destroy credit card receipts, utility bills and any documents containing personal or account information, as well as pre-approved credit card applications you don't want.

5. Ensure computer and Internet security

Equip your computer with a "firewall," which prevents outsiders from accessing the data on your computer. Deal only with reputable, established companies when using the Internet for credit card purchases or banking transactions. Look for digital signatures, data encryption and other technology that enhances user security.

6. Review your records regularly

Check your bank and credit card statements as soon as they arrive. Report any discrepancies immediately.

7. Check your credit rating

At least once a year, obtain a copy of your credit report and make sure that it is accurate. Canada has two national credit bureaus: Equifax Canada (1-800-465-7166, www.equifax.ca) and TransUnion Canada (1-877-525-3823, www.tuc.ca).