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What can you do?

Picture this scenario: you go to the grocery store and decide to pay the cashier with your credit card. You reach into your wallet and discover that your credit card is not there. Frantically you search for it but the credit card is gone! Panic sets in.

Immediately you call the card’s issuer and inform them that your card must have been stolen. The issuer cancels the card, but it is already too late. The fraud artist that stole the card has already purchased various items, using your card. Now you are worried that you failed to purchase extra insurance on your credit card, and you may be held responsible for paying for these items that you didn’t purchase.

This though may prove to be the least of your worries.

Identity Theft

Although credit card fraud is not overly common in Canada, it is definitely on the rise. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in 2019, a reported 45,000 Canadians lost more than $96 million and experienced the damaging effects of identity theft. Your personal information is very valuable and should be protected at all times.

Even though credit card fraud cannot be totally eliminated, there are some steps that you can take to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. Once again, education is the key to controlling and managing your finances.

Beware of Strangers on the Phone

Identity theft can be defined as the use of another person’s personal information (examples are a person’s SIN number or credit card numbers) in order to receive financial gains or prosper financially. Identity fraud can range from using stolen credit cards or bankcards, to purchase homes, household items, and many other things, all the way to committing more serious crimes using the fraud victim’s identity. These offenses are very serious, and are of great concern to our city police departments and the RCMP; unfortunately, it is often difficult to catch the culprits since they are using a false identity (Yours)

If you receive an unsolicited telephone call seeking personal information about you and your assets, REMEMBER, you are talking to a stranger. Don’t be afraid to say no and hang up! No, it’s not rude.

Self Protection – Credit Monitoring

In Canada, there are several credit monitoring services that have proven to be a very valuable tool in the fight against identity theft and credit card fraud. How it works is this – the credit bureaus Equifax and TransUnion will notify you if someone pulls your credit file – if it is not authorized by you – you can immediately contact the credit grantor and have the credit card cancelled – saving precious time and money not to mention the legal problems that could be associated with some pretending to be you. So if you have not looked into this service I highly recommend that you visit them for more information about this valuable service.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps that can be taken to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud. Although these steps cannot guarantee that you will not be a victim of credit card fraud, they will provide you with a closer look into your own situation and how you handle your financial responsibilities.

  1. Keep your SIN number in a private location; never carry it in your wallet or in your purse. Although you may think that your SIN card is a good choice of identification, your driver’s license or care card will work just as effectively. Remember that if your SIN number is in your wallet or purse, it is more likely to get stolen by a thief and used.
  2. If you do not use your credit cards often (congratulations!), make sure that you check your wallet or purse for any missing cards frequently. Credit card companies will void charges made in the event of your card being stolen, however, you must provide a reasonable time period between when the card went missing and when you reported it missing to the issuers. In most cases, provincial laws will restrict your financial liability.
  3. Always make sure that if you dispose of your credit card statements or bank slips that you shred or cut up the documents. Some fraud artists often resort to searching through trash bags in order to retrieve these account numbers.
  4. Sign all your new credit cards or bank cards as soon as you receive them.
  5. Don’t give your credit card number to anyone over the phone, unless you make the phone call to them. If you decide to use your credit card over the Internet, be sure that the site you are on is secured so it is more difficult for people to access your credit card number. Oftentimes, thieves will engage in ‘telephone scams,’ which require you to give your credit card number over the phone. So be careful.
  6. Never lend your credit cards to anyone; this includes family members. If you do and an alert salesperson detects the “fraud”, they will keep the card, and your sister, brother, mother, or whoever could be arrested.
  7. Never leave your cards in an unsafe place. Leaving your credit cards in your car, at your office, or on the kitchen counter makes them vulnerable to being stolen or lost.
  8. If you discover that your card is missing, make sure that you phone the issuers immediately. Keep a list of all your account information (expiration dates, account numbers, issuer’s phone numbers) in a secured location that will be easy to access in the event of a stolen or missing card.
  9. Check your credit card statements and bank account statements for their accuracy. Always confirm that you have made all of the purchases that the statement claims. If you have questions about the statement, don’t hesitate or delay telephoning the card issuer.
  10. Make sure that all the information on a charge slip is correct before you put in your PIN to pay by debit card. Always keep in mind that you are agreeing to pay whatever is on the charge slip, and you definitely don’t want to pay for something that you didn’t buy.

Credit card fraud is a very serious issue that most Canadians are forced to deal with at some time or another. Oftentimes, prevention is the key to avoiding many serious financial situations, and prevention can be linked back to education. Take the time to analyze your current financial situation; is there anything on the list that you fail or have failed in the past to do? What reasons do you have for having failed to take these simple precautions in the past? Use these suggestions as a guideline from the present day forward. Although these steps are not guaranteed, they could potentially save you from some serious financial problems. Guard your credit information at all times. You just never know who is watching and waiting to “financially” become you.

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