The Day My Identity Was Stolen | I don't blog, but if I did...

The Day My Identity Was Stolen

by Ryan Durrell

In the late 1990s I was learning to code websites between classes and glasses (of beer) at university and made a website called “The Mayo Centre” – which, unlike the Mayo Clinic, was dedicated to my love of mayonnaise, not medical services. My ridiculous site was even awarded “Strange Site of the Day” by Yahoo. What an honour! Sadly, it seems my thin affiliation with Yahoo would come back to bite me.

According to a recent TD survey, 85% of Canadians worry about financial fraud, and with good reason.

Last fall, I received a call from the branch manager at my bank saying they had flagged one of my credit card applications as suspicious. She wondered if I had applied for credit cards in Calgary. I don’t typically apply for unsecured credit while travelling, and I assured her that it wasn’t me, so it became apparent that my identity had been stolen.

Turns out, somebody had been trying desperately to get credit cards in my name. Because my name doesn’t follow a typical naming structure, and based on the information used in their applications, I was able to determine that my identity theft was most likely linked to the huge Yahoo data breach. Was this, perhaps, the karmic price I had to pay for my strange site of the day acclaim in 1998? Perhaps. Either way, I now had a mess to clean up.

For weeks, I dealt with TransUnion and Equifax (Canada’s two main credit companies), the banks, the RCMP, and the local police to disclose my case, and try to clean it up. I placed fraud alerts on my accounts with the credit companies, locking down my accounts and began monitoring my credit scores for changes. Make no mistake, repairing your credit is a huge pain. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so play it safe with your personal info and do what you can to avoid having your identity stolen.

How Identify Theft Works

As an insurance consultant by day, I spend a lot of time working with companies and associations on their exposures to cyber-attacks. You may think that hacking is all about mischief and nuisance, but it’s not. It’s all about the dollars and cents.

What You Need to Know:

The following tips were compiled by TD to to help protect you and your loved ones from financial fraud:

• Pay attention to your fraud alerts – Banks are increasingly using text messaging to communicate with their customers. For example, TD Fraud Alerts are texts that notify a customer if TD detects suspicious activity made with their TD Access Card on their personal banking accounts. The customer can reply to the alert with a simple “Y” or “N” to confirm whether they recognize the transaction and TD will unblock or block their TD Access Card accordingly based on the response. TD will never ask a customer to reply to a Fraud Alert text with any personal information or ask customers to click on any links in their reply.

• Protect your PIN and guard your cheques – The only person who should know your PIN is you – not even your bank knows it. Don’t ever give out your PIN, whether in person, over the phone, online or by mail. You should also never leave your cheques unattended and if your chequebook is lost or stolen, call your bank immediately.

• Don’t be fooled by phishing – Exercise caution when receiving unsolicited e-mails containing attachments or asking you to click a link and provide sensitive information. Banks will not ask you to provide personal information, or login information such as usernames, passwords, PINs, security questions and answers, or account numbers, through unsolicited e-mail.

• Verify if it’s real – If you receive an unexpected and too-good-to-be-true cheque, chances are it may be fraudulent. It’s always important to know who you’re doing business with.

• Check your statements, online accounts or banking apps regularly – This will alert you to fraudulent transactions more quickly. Money management apps, like the TD MySpend app, can be helpful tools since they help TD customers to be aware of certain types of spend transactions on eligible TD accounts and credit cards. The TD MySpend app provides notifications of transactions in real-time, which helps make it easy for customers to recognize a fraudulent purchase quickly.

These attacks will play on fear and urgency to get you to let down your guard.  And they will sometimes look very credible. Remember: Your bank will never ask you to follow a link to log in. Nor will they call you and ask for your card number – they’re the bank, they already know it! If you’re even the slightest bit suspicious, call the bank directly using the number on the back of your card to ask if the request is real.

Shields Up!

For the people looking to use your personal information for their financial gain, this is their job. They’re at this 8 hours a day, every day. The methods of attack are always changing to make sure they can keep making money. So keep your shields up, and question everything that asks you for personal info.


Disclosure: This post is part of the and TD sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors.

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