March marks Fraud Awareness Month across Canada, and government organizations and websites are encouraging public awareness that will help Canadians to protect themselves from identity theft.
Identity theft and fraud occur when someone steals personal information to assume someone’s identity and gain access to their finances, making purchases that create debts in their name, or commit other crimes. An increasing number of cases involving fraud have been linked back to organized crime, meaning the majority of cases are not committed by novice criminals.
The impact on individuals, families, and professional lives can be devastating—savings, critical documents, private histories, and whole businesses have been lost. Fraud-related offences are now thought to be as profitable as drug-related offences, and are estimated to be worth ruibetween $10 and $30 billion annually in Canada by the RCMP’s Commercial Crime Branch.
“One victim is too many,” says Mike Cabana, RCMP Deputy Commissioner of Federal Policing, in a press release earlier this month. “Recognizing fraud is the first step to better protecting yourself.”
Though what comes of these robberies is ruinous, the majority of fraud crimes can be prevented by mindfulness and adopting certain habits. For example, authorities suggest keeping all electronic bills in one location (such as Canada Post’s e-post service) so that users can store their personal information using a virtual “Vault.” In terms of physical mail, it is suggested that individuals pick it up as soon as possible and have a trusted contact pick it up while you are away during vacations or business trips. Other important tips include not discarding mail with personal information on it, changing pin information regularly on credit and debit cards, and being cautious of sharing personal information with people.
“Our government is committed to protecting families and that includes the development of initiatives that help inform Canadians about how to protect themselves from fraud-related crimes,” said Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, in a press release. “Canadians need to be vigilant about fraud not only during the month of March, but all year long and through public awareness.”
If you suspect you are at risk of fraud or identity theft, do not hesitate to file a complaint with your local RCMP office. You can follow the RCMP on Twitter at @rcmpgrcpolice. Topics covered for Fraud Awareness Month will include identity theft, phishing, on-line shopping, and card fraud. You can also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre through its website at antifraudcentre.ca.