to main content to contact page

An Epidemic of Identity Theft


The pandemic has provided fraudsters with more opportunities to commit crimes. The incidence of identity theft in Canada has jumped by 20% over the last two years, while digital identity theft attempts have increased by an incredible 218% since the beginning of the pandemic. Although the victims of this type of theft may be a relatively small percentage of our overall population, anyone who has had their identity stolen knows the considerable impact this crime can have.

Authorities believe we may not know the extent of identity theft in Canada. In the United States, which has the most reliable and up-to-date information, an incredible 49 million individuals fell victim to either identity theft or fraud in 2020, with nearly $56 billion USD in damage for fraud and identity theft reported in that year.

What is identity theft or fraud?
Identity theft involves the theft of someone else's personal information. The criminals' methods range from analog (mail theft and dumpster diving) to digital, including stealing private information through phishing, database breaches, computer spyware or viruses, often using a bot.

Criminals then use your information to commit fraud, including accessing or opening new bank accounts under your name, applying for loans and credit cards, taking over cell phone accounts, and even getting passports or receiving government benefits.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has noted an increase in all these activities and the taking over of social media and email accounts.

Identity theft can be broken down into types, the most common of which are:

Synthetic identity theft – synthetic identity theft happens when someone creates a fake identity using someone's actual information. This type of fraud is growing. 

Financial identity theft – involves a criminal stealing your financial information, such as your credit card number, and using it to buy things. The adoption of EMV chip credit cards has significantly helped reduce credit card fraud. 

Medical identity theft – includes the theft of personal information to obtain health care services, most commonly prescription drugs.

Child identity theft – happens when a minor's personal information is used to commit bank fraud or another form of identity theft. Sadly, this type is also on the rise. 

Who is most at risk? You might be surprised.
An Equifax survey found that 90% of Canadians think identity theft is a serious issue.

There is a myth that older people are more likely to be victims of this type of crime, but the truth is we are all at risk. A study completed by US insurer Allstate found that while many people feel somewhat immune because they think they are in control of who has access to their online information, this belief has little foundation.

In fact, every generation is susceptible. Anti-virus provider Norton found that 87% of consumers have left their personal information exposed at some point, often through sloppy shopping habits or sharing of passwords/accounts.

Although Gen Z was the least likely to say it could happen to them, this generation is not the least likely to be a victim. Moreover, in 2020, the most targeted group for identity theft was millennials; they were also the most likely to fall prey to online scams.

The higher proportional numbers of identity theft amongst these demographics have been attributed to a lack of education and the simple fact that they spend more of their lives online than older demographics.

How can you recover if your identity has been stolen?
ARAG's new Unlimited Identity Theft Protection Assistance, now included in our Personal Legal Solutions policies, can help save your customers' time and resources if their identity is stolen.
  1. Identity theft experts will provide your customers with general assistance and prevention tips about identity theft and how to protect themselves. If your customer believes they have been the victim of identity theft, this service provides them with direct assistance by an Identity Restoration Expert to help restore their identity.

  2. This service is available 7 days a week from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Eastern Standard Time and customers can call 24/7 to schedule an appointment with an Identity Restoration Expert during those hours.

  3. Service is available using the same number as ARAG's Legal Helpline phone number.
Recovering a stolen identity can be time-consuming, ranging from hundreds of hours to up to six months, depending on the extent of the theft; our Identity Theft Protection Assistance provides help and peace of mind.

If you think your identity has been stolen or that someone else is using your identity, here are some additional tips:
  1. File a police report as soon as possible.

  2. Record any known details of the crime. If you spoke with someone you suspect is the thief, make a note of what was said and keep all copies of communications.

  3. Notify your financial institutions, credit card issuers and other companies you deal with. If your credit card is stolen, your maximum liability is $50 under applicable consumer legislation – once you've reported it.

  4. Call the major credit reporting agencies: Equifax Canada Inc. and TransUnion of Canada. They will put a warning on your file and can help you obtain copies of your credit report so you can review and report any false information.

  5. If you believe your SIN has been stolen, contact Service Canada.

Actions you can take to protect yourself.
  1. Check your credit reports and bank and credit card statements, and report any irregularities.

  2. Shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage.

  3. Retrieve your mail regularly to limit the potential mail theft.

  4. Notify the post office and relevant financial institutions/service providers when you move.
  1. Be wary of unsolicited emails or text messages asking you for personal or financial information.

  2. Use security tools and software along with an encrypted connection.

  3. Don't share your accounts; use secure passwords stored in a digital vault.

  4. Use social media safely.

  5. Be careful about the apps you download.

  6. Use a VPN (a virtual private network); don't trust public Wi-Fi when you are not at home.

Although there is some indication that consumers are becoming more aware of their data use and the potential for fraud, experts say there is little cause for optimism. It's unlikely the situation will improve until organizations also learn how to keep up with the technical advances of the fraudsters to minimize risk to consumers and users.