Eighty Percent of Canadians Think Identity Theft Is a Serious Problem
One-Third More Concerned Than a Year Ago
February 28, 2005 Toronto, ONTARIO � Four in five Canadians think identity theft is a serious problem in Canada and that concern is growing as the number of people with personal experience with the crime increases, according to a new telephone poll conducted for Intersections Inc. (Nasdaq:INTX – News) and Carlson Marketing Group Canada Ltd. by Ipsos-Reid.
The survey, called the Identity Theft Index Canada (ITIC), is the first in a series of tracking polls the companies intend to commission to gauge the level of awareness of and types of responses to the growing crime of identity theft among Canadian consumers. Intersections and Carlson are among the over 35 members of the Fraud Prevention Forum who collaborate with the Competition Bureau of Canada to help combat consumer fraud. As part of this effort, the groups marked February as Fraud Awareness Month.
The ITIC poll found that one in four Canadians reported that they have been, or someone they personally know has been, a victim of identity theft. This is made up of nine percent who said they, or they and someone they know personally, have been victims; and 17 percent who said someone they know personally has been a victim.
As a possible result of these experiences, one-third of respondents said their level of concern about them or someone they know becoming a victim of this crime is higher than a year ago.
The types of fraud resulting from identity theft crime are wide-ranging, according to the ITIC poll. Among those who have been a victim or personally know someone who has been a victim of identity theft, seventy percent said the identity theft resulted in unauthorized credit card purchases, the most frequent, but least costly form of identity theft fraud for consumers. However, significant percentages of these respondents reported more serious frauds, including takeover of existing credit card accounts (43%), the opening of new credit card accounts (36%) or new loans (22%), unauthorized bank account access (42%) and the use of the victims’ personal information in other types of frauds, such as to obtain government benefits or medical care (24%).
“Many cases of identity theft perpetrated against Canadians are resulting in serious crimes that go well beyond simple credit card fraud where the consumer’s liability has traditionally been limited,” said Sheila McCracken, who represents Intersections’ Canadian solutions group. “These more significant frauds can have serious implications for consumers in terms of losses.”
The majority of identity theft fraud in Canada appears to be self detected. More than one-third (34%) of Canadian victims discovered the fraud while reviewing their bank or credit card statements (26%) or credit reports (8%). Thirty percent reported that their bank or credit card company first discovered the fraud, the ITIC poll found.
It is not surprising then that 92 percent of Canadians said they are responsible for protecting themselves from identity theft. However, compared to the results of a previous poll conducted for Intersections in June 2004, increasing majorities also feel that others, such as banks (87%, up 3%), credit card companies (85%, up 2%) the government (79%, up 11%), credit bureaus (75%, up 4%) and retailers (72%, up 2%) are also responsible for protecting them.
Encouragingly, seventy percent of respondents reported that they consider themselves ‘very well’ or ‘somewhat’ informed about how to protect against identity theft. When asked what steps they have ever taken to protect against identity theft, a majority of respondents said they have followed the security procedures requested by their credit card company (68%), reviewed their credit reports (65%) or bought a shredder or destroy documents (54%). Fewer Canadians have stopped banking or shopping online (30%), subscribed to a credit monitoring service (18%) or bought identity theft insurance or other identity theft recovery services (17%) to protect against identity theft.
“Quick discovery of identity theft crime is essential to stopping fraud and reducing losses,” said John Holman, Vice President for Carlson’s Membership Marketing division. “It is clear that right now a vigilant consumer remains one of his own best defenses against identity theft and the fraud that often results from it.”
Intersections, in partnership with Carlson, offers the only credit monitoring service that monitors consumers’ files at both major credit reporting agencies in Canada – Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada – on a daily basis for red flags that may indicate identity theft or fraud. The service, called CreditAlert(TM), is available through financial institutions in both English and French.
Not surprisingly, many Canadians feel that more can be done by others to alleviate the problem of identity theft. Just under half (46%) think that banks and credit card companies are doing enough to protect consumers from identity theft and fraud. Half (49%) think law enforcement is doing enough and 47 percent think the media is doing a good job protecting them. Only minorities of Canadians feel that the government (40%), credit bureaus (37%) and retailers (35%) are doing enough to help fight the identity theft problem in Canada.
“Canadian consumers want more to be done to help fight identity theft and fraud across the board,” said McCracken. “These results support the need for organizations, such as banks, credit card companies and retailers to do more to prevent identity theft collaboratively with government, law enforcement and other organizations.”
Intersections Inc. and Carlson Marketing Group Canada, Ltd. offer the following tips to help consumers recognize, report and stop identity theft and fraud:
Review your credit card and bank statements regularly and thoroughly for any suspicious activity.
Review your credit reports on a regular basis.
Subscribe to a daily credit monitoring service for timely notification of any potentially fraudulent activity on your credit file, so that you can take action right away to stop it.
Never respond to unsolicited e-mails or phone calls asking for your SIN, billing, login or any other personal information.
Promptly report cases of fraud to your bank or credit card company, the credit bureaus, law enforcement and PhoneBusters.
Report and dispute any errors or fraudulent activity on your credit report immediately. The sooner you address fraudulent activity, the less damage will be done to your credit.
Keep a registry of your cards, account numbers, expiration dates and toll-free customer service numbers and keep it in a safe place. Report your cards lost or stolen as soon as you notice they are missing.
Update your computer’s virus detection software regularly.
Shred all documentation that identifies your personal information.
Never use your SIN or your birth date as your logon, password or PIN.
Do not leave credit card or other payments in an unlocked mailbox. Drop them off at the post office or in a secure mailbox.
When traveling, be extra cautious about guarding your personal information in internet cafes and when connecting to public wireless access points.
These are some of the findings of a national Ipsos-Reid telephone poll conducted on behalf of Intersections Inc. and Carlson Marketing Group between January 28 and 31, 2005. The poll is based on a randomly selected sample of 1,001 adult Canadians. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult Canadian population been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. These data were weighted to ensure the sample’s regional and age/gender composition reflects that of the actual Canadian population according to the 2001 Census data.
Ipsos-Reid is Canada’s market intelligence leader and the country�s leading provider of public opinion research. With operations in eight cities, Ipsos-Reid employs more than 300 researcher professionals and support staff in Canada. The company has the biggest network of telephone call centres in Canada, as well as the largest pre-recruited household and on-line panels. Ipsos-Reid�s Canadian marketing research and public affairs practices are staffed with seasoned research consultants with extensive industry-specific backgrounds, offering the premier suite of research vehicles in Canada�including the Ipsos Trend Report, the leading source of public opinion in the country�all of which provide clients with actionable and relevant information. Ipsos-Reid is an Ipsos company, a leading global survey-based market research group.
To learn more, visit: www.ipsos.ca