Safeguarding Personal Information
An important step in protecting yourself from real estate fraud is safeguarding personal information.
- Safeguard personal information until you know who you are dealing with, how it will be used and if it will be shared with anyone.
- Keep personal information confidential when on the phone or Internet until you know who you are dealing with.
- Carry minimal information or identification in your wallet.
- Inspect your credit reports on a regular basis. These can be provided free of charge by the credit reporting agencies. If you notice anything suspicious, contact the credit bureau with your concerns.
- Inspect your financial or bank statements monthly for inconsistencies or unknown charges.
- Protect the integrity of your mail. Make deliveries to and from the mail slots in person. Access your mail at regular intervals, ideally every day.
- Destroy financial or identification documents before discarding them.
- Destroy any unsolicited credit card applications that you may receive. Stay alert for other signs of identity theft or real estate fraud, such as:
- Failing to receive bills or other mail. Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover their tracks.
- Receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for.
- Failing to receive credit cards you did apply for.
To minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, manage your personal information wisely and cautiously:
- When someone asks for information, especially identification, ask why they need it and what they will use it for.
- Buy a shredder and use it.
- Shred anything with personal or financial information such as credit card receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, cheques, financial statements and old income tax returns.
- Cut up expired and unused credit cards (the card may have expired, but the number could still be used).
- Carry only the identification and credit card(s) you will need that day (you rarely need to carry your birth certificate, SIN card or passport).
- Don’t fill in forms for contests, rebates or draws that ask for more information than you are prepared to give.
- Lock your household mailbox if possible.
- If you are going to be away, arrange for a trusted neighbour to pick up your mail (Note: You can also go to your local post office (with identification) and ask for Canada Post’s hold mail service. There will be a charge for this service.)
- Use complex passwords on your credit card, financial and other accounts rather than easily available information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, parts of your phone number or a series of consecutive numbers.
- Don’t leave personal information lying around at home, in your vehicle or at work.
- Find out how your employer ensures your personal information remains private, how they store and dispose of it and who can see it.
- Don’t give personal information to anyone who phones or e-mails you unless you know who they are (identity thieves may pose as representatives of financial institutions, Internet service providers or government agencies to get you to reveal identifying information).
- Don’t put more than your name and address on your personal cheques.
- Make sure unused vehicle license plates are not available for anyone else to use (you can return expired or unused Alberta plates to any registry agent).
- Destroy your old vehicle registration certificate when you get your new one.