Victims of identity theft and fraud often feel helpless after discovering that their identifying information, including their social security number and social insurance number (SIN), are being used for nefarious purposes. That feeling of helplessness isn’t the end of the line, though. You can take important and definitive steps to protect yourself, seek justice and reverse any damage done by fraudsters.
Dealing with the Aftermath of a Stolen SIN
The first step to take when dealing with an identity thief stealing insurance number (as with your social security number) situation is to make an honest assessment of the facts. This can be an emotionally charged discovery to make, but it’s important to make decisions on next steps based on known facts. That way, you can avoid frustration and spend your time seeking useful solutions. The first fact to assess is whether you know for certain that your number is stolen or not.
When You Are Certain Your Number is Stolen
If you have proof that your SIN has been stolen, make sure you collect and save this proof. This will likely depend on the nature of your discovery. In most cases, you’ll know your SIN was stolen because your credit report will show fraudulent charges or you’ve been contacted by a collections agency for an account you didn’t open. Get all of the documentation you can to confirm the veracity of these situations, including printouts or PDF copies of your credit report, a letter from the collections agency and any other proof you can use to build a paper trail. Make sure this proof includes clear confirmation that your SIN is in use. Remember that some cases of identity theft and fraud don’t actually involve the SIN, so proof of the theft or fraud alone isn’t enough to prove that your SIN was stolen.
After you have your proof in order, you should contact or visit your local Service Centre Canada. They should be able to help you do things like understand next steps and even get a new SIN issued. However, their ability to get you a new SIN depends entirely upon the proof you can provide. If you can only prove that your SIN is vulnerable because you lost your card or another document, there’s not much they can do to help you. You can read more about that in the next section.
There may be some cases in which it’s difficult to get confirmation in writing or when the help you get from the government, including the police, doesn’t go far enough to repair the damage you’ve suffered as a victim of identity theft. If you feel that justice isn’t being served or that you aren’t getting what you need at any point in the process, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer who can advocate for you and take your side. Having an experienced professional in your corner can make a world of difference in a sometimes isolating, frustrating, and scary process.
A lawyer may also be able to help you pursue charges against the person or entity responsible for your identity theft. There may be some situations in which it’s a good idea to have a lawyer help you fight against unfair penalties incurred as a result of identity fraud. You might be able to recoup some financial losses by doing this, so consulting with a lawyer after SIN theft can be productive.
When You Know Your SIN Card is Missing and Not Much Else
There are some circumstances in which you can’t really be sure that your SIN number has been stolen, but you do know there’s a risk. If you lose your SIN card, for example, or find that another document that includes your SIN number is missing, the Canadian government isn’t likely to take that as sufficient reason to issue you a new number. You’ve really got to be able to prove that the issue at hand is theft and not just a misplacement.
In other words, the steps outlined above are not preventative measures you can take if you’re worried about a lost SIN card or other identifying document. A lost number and a stolen number are different things entirely. It is true that not all identity theft results in identity fraud, but theft is a crime you have to be able to prove. A statement like “my SIN card was in my wallet yesterday and it isn’t today” isn’t proof that your SIN was stolen. This does mean that if you know your card is lost, you’ll probably have to wait to see whether any fraud occurs before you can really take action. The steps outlined in the next part of the article will be helpful to those in this situation.
Protecting Yourself in the Future
If you aren’t sure whether your identity has been stolen or your SIN is in use by an unknown third party, there are some things you can do to stay aware and on top of your security. Further steps to protect yourself will prevent this from being an issue from the future and reduce your overall identity theft vulnerability.
Monitoring for Identity Theft and Fraud
Canada’s credit bureaus are required to provide each individual with a free credit report every year. Your credit report is different from your credit score—the score reflects the information in the report, but it doesn’t tell the full story. The credit report is that full story. It should detail each company you have a line of credit with and whether your account is in good standing. In most cases, credit accounts require that the applicant provide an SIN, and that’s how those accounts get linked to your credit report in the first place. Therefore, this information alone should be enough to tell you whether someone’s using your identity to open up fraudulent accounts.
You should also actively monitor your bank, credit, and other financial accounts for suspicious activity. However, being able to prove suspicious activity isn’t enough proof of SIN theft in specific. It is an indication that some sort of identity fraud is going on, but a credit card thief wouldn’t need your SIN to use your account. Remember this information and it may stop you from becoming the next victim of identity theft.