Unfortunately, these days credit fraud is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. What can you do to fight back? First, learn about how credit fraud and identity theft can happen to you, then regularly monitor your credit report for unauthorized account use.

How does credit fraud and identity theft happen?

It can be frighteningly easy for a thief to get all the info he needs to commit these types of crimes. If a thief obtains your Social Insurance number, home address and mother’s maiden name, that could well be enough for him to get a fake driver’s license, take over your bank or credit accounts, divert your card statements to a different address, or even apply for new credit card accounts, all using your identity! Thieves can often get this personal information relatively by going through your garbage, stealing from lost or stolen wallets and purses, and through phone and Internet scams.

Preventing credit fraud and identity theft

  • Closely guard your personal data.
  • Never give out your Social Insurance number over the phone unless you know the company well and have placed the call yourself.
  • Change passwords to something other than your mother’s maiden name; choose something that will be harder for a thief to obtain.
  • Carry only the cards you use. Leave official documents like your passport and birth certificate at home or in a secure spot, like a safety deposit box.
  • Shred all your financial documents before you throw them away.
  • If you don’t get a credit card statement on time, call the creditor immediately in case your address has been changed by a thief.

Pre-approved credit offers

If a thief intercepts your mail, a pre-approved credit offer meant for you could spell disaster in the wrong hands. This makes checking your credit report especially important, because it will show you if there are accounts being reported in your name that you did not apply for yourself. The thief could even go so far as to make the minimum payments for a while, until the card gets maxed out, after which it would go to collections (in your name, on your credit report!)

In summary, the above suggestions may seem obvious, but, surprisingly, many people are very lax when it comes to protecting themselves against credit fraud. The bottom line: better to be safe than sorry!