Definition of identity theft

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre defines identity theft as: The unauthorized acquisition, possession or trafficking of personal information, or, the unauthorized use of information to create a fictitious identity or to assume/take over an existing identity in order to obtain financial gain, goods or services, or to conceal criminal activities.

In short, it refers to when someone steals your identity in order to do business, use it for financial gain, acquire goods (at your expense) or hide from the authorities.

A few figures

In 2012, some 17,094 Canadians were victims of identity theft. In 2014, that number jumped to 20,611, an increase of nearly 20% in 2 years! Fortunately, the total losses dropped from just over $16 million to $10.5 million during that same period.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre compiles and publishes fraud cases, including cases of identity theft, on a quarterly basis.

In 2008, the Quebec Ministry of Public Security conducted its first poll on identity theft and cybercrime in Quebec (in french). The poll, which included 1,100 respondents, revealed 60 victims of identity theft and 90 cases of fraud. That's 1.4 cases of fraud per victim in a single year! If these figures were applied to Quebec's total population, it would result in 240,000 victims and 338,000 cases of fraud for 2006-2007!

For 58% of victims, the financial loss was less than $100, but some 6% suffered losses of over $5,000!

Educating yourself is the key to prevention

The best way to protect yourself against fraud is by learning more about it. According to the poll by the Quebec Ministry of Public Security, the most common type of identity theft is via a debit or credit card. The most frequently used technique for acquiring personal data is card cloning, which occurs in nearly 40% of cases.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre publishes The Little Black Book of Scams (available for free online), which explains the most commonly used fraud techniques. Reading it could help you recognize potential instances of fraud and better protect yourself.

Types of fraud

In addition to identity theft, here are some other types of fraud:

  • Lotteries, random draws and contests
  • Pyramid schemes
  • Funds transfer request
  • Online fraud
  • Fraud via cell phone
  • Medical or health-related fraud
  • Fraud related to urgent fund requests
  • Fraud related to dating services
  • Fraud related to charities
  • Fraud related to employment
  • Fraud targeting small businesses
  • Fraud related to a service proposal