David Papp Blog

How to Avoid Digital Identity Theft

The Internet is a place where you can do just about anything—shop, pay bills, book holidays, buy software/movies, and more. It is also a place for thieves to get a credit card in your name. Identity theft costs the Canadian economy $2.5 billion a year and the FBI calls it America’s fastest growing crime. So what should you do to avoid becoming a victim of this crime?

Purchase a paper shredder and shred all of your personal information, such as your bank statements and tax returns. Avoid placing these documents in your garbage at home or at the office as it may be easy for thieves to gather enough information about you to steal your identity.

Always be on guard. If you find an unsolicited credit card in the mail, cut it up and contact your credit card company immediately. Thieves usually apply for credit cards with stolen identities or sometimes they’ll steal your credit cards straight from your mailbox. Call credit card companies that issue credit cards on spec and tell them to take your name off their mailing list.

Avoid volunteering any information over the phone or online. There’s no such thing as a bank inspector that calls or emails you to verify how much you have in your account. Never offer your birth date, bank account number, credit card details, social insurance number, or any other details over the phone or via email unless you initiated the call. Always verify the numbers someone gives you. There are phishers that pose as collection agents and ask for your personal information to “verify they’ve got the right file.”

Be aware of where and when and how much you spend on your credit cards and debit cards. Online banking is an easy way to do this. Simply go online every week to assess your accounts and spending habits. Criminals don’t need to steal your credit cards to get your identity as they can “skim” it by accessing the devices that you use to make transactions at a store, gas station, or restaurant. Chips on cards are now helping to prevent credit card fraud.

If your computer starts acting strangely or slows down dramatically, get it checked out immediately. Your computer may have been infected with a virus that can track every site you’ve visited and record what you type. Run a virus spyware scan or take your computer to your local Future Shop, Best Buy, or Staples. Ensure that you install the latest anti-virus and spyware detection tools to prevent viruses from attacking your computer.

If you need to make purchases on the Internet, consider getting another credit card with a very small limit. Never raise that limit. That way if something ever happens, it minimizes the potential issues and mess that needs to be cleaned up afterwards.

6 thoughts on “How to Avoid Digital Identity Theft”

  1. Very useful information. I do take most of these precautions. How ever its kinda scary to think how many people have my social security number and birthday. I recently joined a site that pays you to take surveys, search web, and watch videos. I have to fill out a lot of things and I put my date of birth in a lot of places. after some weeks of joining I’ve been getting some strange calls from all over the United states asking me about random things that does not relate to me. Could my identity be at stake for giving out my date of birth?

    • That is pretty scary. We really have to be very cautious on where we put our personal information, because THEY may actaully sell your information to other people. Anyway, have you confirmed your suspicion about the site. If that’s the case, can you share their names so others would be warned?

  2. These are very good tips outlining so many precautions we can take to avoid being victims.

    I like the idea of using just one specific credit card with a low balance for online purchases. That is much safer, for instance, that using a debit card.

    As for the unsolicited credit cards in the mailbox, that’s one I had not heard about. To me it underscores the need to have a mailbox with a lock. I think that’s the only way to be safe with the mail. As an apartment dweller I take that as a given. But there are homeowners who do not have locks on the mailbox. The thought of checks or new credit cards being stolen is pretty scary.

  3. This has always been my issue that is why I have not yet applied for a credit card ( only 2-3% of my countries population have it). Banks in our country now offers a debit card or somehow a prepaid card that acts like a credit card that is specifically tailored for online purchases. I have yet to use my prepaid card before it was stolen from me. Good thing, it has a low balance at that time and I was able to easily deactivate the card so It wouldn’t be used for any malicious purpose.

  4. I always consult the security issues over my choices with the services providers. So now, perhaps the most important part of it all is to not get mad over the security breach? Consider minor security breach that even the services provider acknowledges as common practices, like cold calls from survey companies. They probably are third-party services not affiliated with the companies they are representing anyways. But it is hard to get even at those guys.

  5. These are great tips to protect against online identity theft. Now more than ever, we should work to protect our identities because we are subject to so many scams and tricks, and we don’t even know it. Our personal info is moving online to social media networks, and because it can be found so easily, many people are able to social engineer support lines and gain access to even more accounts.

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