Identity theft

Identity (ID) theft is a serious crime. It takes place when a scammer uses your personal information—without your knowledge or consent—to commit fraud or theft. Learn how to recognize and report ID theft, fraud and scams and how to guard your personal information against these types of threats.

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Protect your personal information

Take the following precautionary measures to avoid becoming a victim of ID theft:

  • Don't give out your personal information online, by phone or by mail unless you're the one who initiated the contact or transaction and you're confident that the company or individual is trustworthy and will keep your personal information secure.
  • Carry only what you needleave important ID documents at home.
  • Keep important ID documents like your birth certificate, Social Insurance Number (SIN) and passport in a safe place.
  • Choose a strong personal identification number (PIN) or password that does not include your name, telephone number, date of birth, address or SIN.
  • Always shield the keypad when entering your PIN.
  • Never give your PIN or password to anyone including friends, family, the staff members at your financial institution or even police.
  • If you think someone knows your PIN, change it right away, and then inform your financial institution.
  • Shred or destroy personal information, like expired and unused credit and debit cards, before throwing them out.
  • Ask about the security of your personal information at work, with businesses and with charities.
  • Review your financial statements as soon as they come in. Report any errors to your financial institution right away.
  • Ask for a copy of your credit report each year, and make sure the information is correct.
  • If your credit or debit cards have been lost or stolen, contact the financial institutions that issued the cards immediately.
  • If you don't know why someone is asking for your personal information, ask them why they want it.

Protect your personal information online

The Internet makes it easy to complete transactions and stay in touch with others. But there is a flip side to being connected to the Internet—it makes it simpler for criminals to access your personal information.

Online privacy tips

  • Re-enter your password each time you use an online service or access your accounts. Avoid using automatic login features.
  • Always use a secure connection when using web mail or making online transactions.
  • Restrict your online shopping to companies you know and trust.
  • Never send personal information via Wi-Fi in public places likes restaurants, shopping centres or libraries.
  • Keep your home and work locations private. If your cellphone, digital camera and video camera have automatic geotagging, consider disabling this feature. Or, consider removing any geotags from photos and videos you share online.
  • Visit the Protecting your privacy online page for more tips.

Social networking privacy tips

  • Choose the highest, most restrictive security settings available for your social media accounts. They will help you control who can see your profile, page and posts.
  • Avoid publishing personal information like your date of birth, full name, phone number, SIN or address.
  • Before sharing personal information, updating your status and posting photos or videos, check your privacy settings. Think carefully about what you are posting.
  • Make sure you are comfortable with everyone who has access to your personal page, and if you aren't, remove their access.
  • Visit the Social networking page for more tips.

Protect your computer and mobile devices

  • Choose complex passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Make sure you have the most current anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software and update them often.
  • Never send confidential or financial information by email or text message.
  • For online transactions, make sure that the web page is secure. Here is how you can tell if a website is secure:
    • The web address begins with https://. The 's' indicates that the site is secure.
    • You can see a small icon—usually a lock or key—in or near the web address bar in your browser window. The lock should be in a locked position and the key should be unbroken.
  • Never click and follow a link in an email to start an online transaction with banks, credit unions or online credit payment sites. Instead, go directly to the organization's website to complete your transaction.
  • Before recycling or disposing of a computer or mobile device, either delete your personal information from the hard drive using overwrite software or destroy it.
  • For additional tips, visit the Protecting personal information on your mobile devices page.

Recognize identity theft and fraud threats

Recognizing the signs of ID theft and fraud will help protect your personal information.

The Little Black Book of Scams has a list of Red flags: things to watch for to help you protect yourself against ID theft and other scams.

For the latest information on potential, imminent or actual cyber threats, visit the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security's Alerts & Advisories page.

Report identity theft and fraud

If you're a victim of ID theft or fraud, report it right away. Where to report will depend on where you live and the type of scam. The Reporting a scam page can help you determine who to contact to report the incident.

For additional advice on recognizing and reporting ID theft, fraud and scams, visit the Identity Theft and Identity Fraud page.

Trusted consumer information

Published by the Consumer Measures Committee, a working group of federal, provincial and territorial governments, that helps educate and inform Canadian consumers.