A victim's story
- How did know you'd been a victim of fraud?
At the beginning of September, my roommate mentioned that someone from [a bank] was trying to reach me. Because the phone number started with an area code I didn't recognize, I figured they wanted to sell me banking products and I almost didn't bother calling because I was leaving on vacation the next day. Finally, I called the number and was connected with the fraud department. They asked me if I had an account with the [the said bank] (no), and said they suspected I had been a victim of identity theft. Someone had ordered a credit card online in March, by changing my apartment number, and had rung up close to $14,000 in charges, a sum that was of course never repaid. They suggested I go to a police station to file a complaint and to visit a branch if I wanted more information, which I did.
- What technique was used by the fraudster?
There were a few people in my building (a new condo building) who were victims of the same kind of fraud. The fraudster had our names, our exact addresses and our social insurance numbers. He ordered credit cards online using the right names and addresses, with a small difference: he didn't use the right apartment number. So, neighbours who received letters that weren't addressed to them (but contained the credit cards) left them on top of the mailbox and the fraudster picked them up, just like that. We had warned that if they received a letter not addressed to them, it should not be left on top of the mailbox, but brought directly to the person whose name is on the envelope, or put back in the Canada Post mailbox with a note. But there were some who didn't follow, making easy work for the fraudster.
- Do you think you could have avoided what happened if you had been more vigilant?
It was my first time purchasing a condo. I could have given them cheques without my SIN number, for example. Or I could have asked them why they needed it in the first place. I could have asked more questions.
- What did you lose?
Because it was fraud, I didn't have to pay the amount the fraudster spent. But I wasted a lot of time, going to [the bank] to untangle the story, to the police station to file a complaint, following up with credit agencies to prove my real identity (aside from my apartment number, the fraudster changed other information like the name of my employer), calling other banks from whom the fraudster requested credit cards (requests that were refused, but just to be sure), trying to launch a full police investigation, etc.
- What's the hardest part about all this?
For most people like me, $14,000 is a large sum of money and it's upsetting to know that dishonest people can pocket ten of thousands of dollars by ordering credit cards online. It was very stressful for me, especially since I left on vacation just after I found out, I was afraid I'd find myself on the other side of the world with no credit card and no money.
- What steps have you taken to make sure this doesn't happen again?
I've increased my security with credit agencies. As a result, I now get a phone call every time a credit card is requested in my name. I've also tried to educate my neighbours on how to protect themselves, don't leave envelopes on top of mailboxes and check with credit agencies to see if you've been a victim of fraud. If [the bank] hadn't called me, I would never have given it a second thought.
- What advice do you have for others?
Follow your instincts and be aware.