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By: Dwayne Strocen 

Identity Theft Is Big Business

More than a 209 million US Citizens and Canadians have had their identities stolen. I’m not just talking about last year, but from a single security breach from reporting agency giant Equifax. While all of us shook our heads in disbelief when the news was announced. It seems that 4 executives including the Chief Financial Officer sold $1.8 million dollars in company shares just prior to the news being released to the public.  

If you think that was brazen, then you won’t be surprised to learn the sorrow doesn’t end there. This single intrusion is now considered to be the largest cyber-breach in history. Surpassing the previous largest cyber-breach in history. That is until the next announcement hits us in the face like a, (pause), like a non-event. For those who were affected, thieves collected names, addresses, dates of birth, social insurance numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, drivers license numbers. Everything needed to pretend they are you. They will apply for credit cards, make automobile purchases, take expensive vacations, apply for pension benefits, government assistance. Shall I stop here. When they’re done, they will sell your information on the Dark Web to someone who can use the second hand information to steal even more from you.

Yes your credit cards will be cancelled fairly quickly and therefore has a limited shelf life. But a number of the items are yours and theirs forever. Your drivers license number stays with you. Your SIN number is yours for life. So is your name and date of birth. These are bits of information you will never escape from. Your identity has successfully been stolen.

And yet, online shopping continues to grow year over year. Telephone and e-mail phishing scams are abundant. Use of on-line dating sites, social media and networking sites are more popular than ever. Giant internet companies like Google and Facebook, to name only a few, have publicly announced they collect and sell user information. We’re talking about your information. That’s right, they sell your personal data and personal habits to anyone who will pay the price.

This past week we heard of UK company Cambridge Analytica representative Aleksandr Kogan of sending staff to Facebook offices posing as students conducting research. By sending a questionnaire to 270,000 Facebook users via a downloaded app. Aleksandr Kogan was able to data-mine unauthorized information from 50 million people who are connected as “friends” of the original Facebook accounts. At this time, it is believed that Trump 2016 Campaign staffers requested assistance in determining voter behaviours and personalities to better focus their campaign marketing efforts. And who did they hire, Cambridge Analytica.

I hear you saying that it hardly qualifies as identity theft. Except that personal details and habits of 50 million Americans are floating around in the cloud. Cambridge Analytica stated they had deleted the data when asked in 2015 by Facebook. Now we learn that it was all a lie. That data was never deleted and who knows who else has since gained access to the information?

As Vice-President of Canadian company DOCUFRAUD, I’d like to share some rules for protecting your personal information from being used without your permission.

1.view your credit report. In Canada there are two national credit agencies, Equifax and TransUnion. This is an easy first step to determine if there are anomalies with your financial history. You can easily determine if there have been attempts at unauthorized credit card applications or other suspicious activity;

2.avoid online gaming sites and posting on social media. Phishing emails include fake notifications from banks, e-payment systems, email providers, social networks, online games. Your family history including names of your children are easy targets for predators. A commonly asked password verification question “name of mother’s maiden name” is often gleaned from social media pages. Just because you are not on social media, council your children about listing personal information on social media sites – it does matter. 63% of confirmed data breaches involved weak, default or stolen passwords; wary of internet phishing scams. Do not click on links from people you do not recognize. Delete all e-mails immediately. Clicking on these links can implant a virus which can record each keystroke you make. This is one way to collect banking information, passwords or details of credit card transactions. 30% of phishing messages were opened in 2016 – up from 23% in 2015; skeptical when approached by department store credit card promotions. Many of these are conducted by third party companies. Yes you will get your credit card but you will also be receiving unwanted junk mail and/or endless e-mail promotions. Many of these friendly clerks will ask for confidential information such as your drivers license number, e-mail address or even SIN number. Don’t be fooled by the today only offer, walk away and be glad you did;

Thieves are becoming smarter and more creative every day. It’s up to you to take steps to do all you can to protect your reputation and that of your family. Education is a good place to begin.

Dwayne Strocen is Vice-President of DOCUFRAUD Canada. DOCUFRAUD is a forensic document examination company representing clients across Canada. The company is a specialist in hand writing comparison and signature examination. Our expert examiners provide expert testimony for criminal and civil courts in both Canada and the United States. Common documents often examined are forged or altered documents, contested wills, threatening letters and legal contracts. For more information please complete the form on the right or call 1-888 -400-1309

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