> Identity theft has become such a large issue for Canadians today.

Here are some basic facts about identity theft if you didn’t already know them:

  • Costs an average $50 billion a year
  • There is a new victim every 4 seconds (the same amount of time it took you to read that sentence)
  • It takes an average of $8000 and 600 hours to restore your good name and your credit after your identity has been stolen.
  • 10 million new victims every single year
  • Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime in North America today

So how is it possible to have your identity stolen? Well, there’s the tried and true ways – dumpster diving (seriously, folks, shred your information!), credit card skimming, phishing, having your purse or wallet stolen (ladies, don’t leave your purse on the floor underneath your chair).

How do we stop it then? Did you know that the best thing to do is to protect your personal identification in any way possible. And yes, that means not keeping your SIN in your wallet and not giving it out to just anyone who asks! That includes when you are out looking for a job – give it to them when you go for your interview or sign your employment forms, not before!

Other simple things that you can do is shred every single piece of paper that contains your personal information – bills, statements, cheques, work statements, credit card offers – anything basically even if it only contains your name and address – shred it! You can pick up a small hand held shredder for $10 at Walmart (even Avon sells this now – come on ladies!) or you can buy an average shredder for $40 that works at the touch of a button.

Next, protect your computer if you use it to go online. Firewalls, encryption, anti-virus protections – keep your online information safe! Only purchase items from websites that you know are legit and have that little lock symbol on the bottom of your screen. Never give out your credit card information through email – you might think your sending it to Aunt Betty so she can book you a hotel room for the next family reunion, but what happens if by accident you send it to some guy in Nigeria who sent you that email about helping him out with a small problem in regards to his local bank?

But don’t stop there. Ever single Canadian has the right to obtain a free credit report every year. Did you know that? I bet you didn’t, cause if you did you’d have done it already. Request yours! Do it today if you haven’t already! If you suspect that someone is after your personal information, place a fraud alert on your account. Make it difficult for that thief to steal your information. Do it – I dare you!

Take those simple steps and you’ll be amazed at how much longer it’ll take before you open that credit card statement and see thousands of dollars that you didn’t spend – you dang Visa is making you pay back.