Identity Theft

We’ve all heard the stories and likely have a personal acquaintance who has had the unpleasant experience of having their identity stolen.  There is no doubt that it is inconvenient.  While the banks generally don’t make you pay for what the scammer has spent, there is no guarantee of that.

You may think to yourself that you have taken steps and it can’t happen to you because of that.  Think again.  What does a crook need to try to get your business’ money?  They need your bank information.  Easy.  Any one of your trade creditors has that.  When you sign your payables, you are sending your bank information (along with your signature) out the door to a multitude of people.  If you are the signing officer of the company, it may also be easy to get a good copy of your picture (website, news releases, Facebook).  Picture plus signature = easy fake ID. 

I remember an incident at a former employer some years ago.  We got a call from our local bank, asking where one of the principals of the business was.  We told them he was there in the office.  The banker said “Thanks, I’ll call later to explain.“  It turns out that there was a person in a branch in British Columbia, claiming to be the principal and attempting to withdraw money from the business account.  Having confirmed with us that it was an imposter, the person was arrested on the spot. 

An astute banker saved us a lot of hassle.  However, it also shows how easy it can be.  The above example is really a low-tech one.  There are much more sophisticated schemes which, invariably, involve someone posing as you.  Whether it is mortgage fraud, title fraud, stealing credit card information or simply incurring debts in your name (leaving your credit history in need of explanation forever), there are so many ways to cause you grief. 

I suggest a few steps to help prevent identity theft:

  1. Shred (not just recycle) envelopes and mailings with your personal information on it.
  2. If you dispose of your credit card receipts, shred them.
  3. Limit the amount of personal information you disclose online (Facebook, networking sites, your personal or business web sites).
  4. Never buy something over the phone or online from someone who contacted you (make sure it was you who initiated the contact).
  5. Don’t give out information to people who don’t need it.
  6. Don’t “confirm” your personal information to people who should already have it. Banks DO NOT send e-mails or call you to verify your information.
  7. Don’t give out any more information than is necessary.
  8. Go online and check your account status and recent transactions regularly. (While this won’t prevent a problem, it will catch it quickly.)
  9. Be careful about who is within earshot when you are disclosing your credit card information over the phone.
  10. Be on the alert! It is better to be more suspicious than to be careless.
Ian Johncox, Civil Litigation/Employment Lawyer/Mediator

Ian Johncox, Civil Litigation/Employment Lawyer/Mediator

Ian practices in the areas of employment law, occupier liability defence, franchise litigation and contract litigation. Ian is a trained mediator and conducts mediations in a wide range of civil (non-family) cases. His employment law practice includes acting for employers and employees, which gives him a balanced perspective to his clients’ issues.

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