One in three Canadians surveyed not protecting their identity

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Be extra vigilant this holiday season to avoid identity theft: Royal & SunAlliance

TORONTO, Nov. 27, 2006 – Nearly one in three Canadians surveyed are putting their identity at risk by not shredding their personal documents before throwing them in the garbage, according to Internet research issued recently by Royal & SunAlliance Insurance Company of Canada. This is despite the fact that identity theft is becoming an increasing problem in Canada and approximately two million people have been affected at some point in their lifetime.

With the preparations for the holidays well under way, Canadians must be extra vigilant, as this is a prime time of year for fraudsters to have their own happy holiday at somebody else’s expense. A quarter of those surveyed will be shopping online during the holiday season, and 80% will use credit and debit cards, so it is important people take measures to protect their identity.

Young people are even worse when it comes to protecting their identities, with half of 18- 24-year-olds surveyed not shredding their personal documents and one in 10 keeping their PIN in their wallet or bag — some even keep it on their cell phones. A quarter of Canadians surveyed keep their PIN number in their home, which could still be risky if it falls into the wrong hands, and a small percentage even keep it at work.

Identity theft occurs when a fraudster uses someone’s personal information to commit a crime such as fraud, theft, or forgery. Even though many people are inadvertently taking risks with their identity, the Royal & SunAlliance research revealed that nearly 70 per cent of Canadians surveyed online were worried about this growing crime.

“I was affected by identity theft when fraudsters used my personal details to apply for a credit card in my name,” said David from Toronto. “They managed to make cash advances and purchases on the card to the value of $13,000, which I was luckily not held responsible for. My SIN number was also compromised, and I have taken a number of measures to rectify these problems, such as contacting the credit bureaus to have a fraud alert placed on my file.

“I am now extremely careful with my personal data by not giving out information over the phone, and I shred bills and paperwork before throwing them away.” “Identity theft is the fastest-growing form of consumer fraud, which continues to claim thousands of victims each year with serious consequences,” said Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian. “I encourage consumers to be vigilant with their personal information, and seek practical ways to protect themselves on an everyday basis, such as investing in a shredder.”

Provincial breakdown

The online research by Royal & SunAlliance revealed some differences across the country:

  • People surveyed in British Columbia and Quebec were most worried about identity theft, and those in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada were least worried about it.

  • Those surveyed in Ontario and the Prairies were least likely to shred their personal documents and those in Quebec were most likely.

  • People in Atlantic Canada are least likely to keep their PIN in a place that fraudsters can get access to it.

  • The online survey showed Quebec is the province in which people are most confident about getting their identity back once suffering from the crime, and Ontario has the least knowledge in how to do this, according to the online survey.

How can you get your identity back?

Those surveyed were unsure what to do if they suffered from identity theft, with 78% saying they did not know how to get their identity back. It can be very frustrating for victims of identity theft when trying to get everything back to normal once a fraudster has used their details. Royal & SunAlliance provides their home insurance policyholders with identity theft coverage at no additional charge and provides a 24/7 toll-free helpline, so that victims can talk to experienced counsellors who will provide guidance and referrals to appropriate facilities across the country.

Shawn DeSantis, vice-president of personal insurance at Royal & SunAlliance, said: “These statistics are alarming. Two million Canadians have been affected by identity theft, yet nearly 80% surveyed would not know who to go to to get their identity back if they were affected. This is why we have tried to fill the gap with our identity theft service for all of our home insurance policyholders. This service can help reduce the stress that people face by providing the support of qualified legal advisors to help in restoring their legitimate identity. I would advise all homeowners to check with their insurance broker to find out if they are protected for identity theft.”

Royal & SunAlliance offers the following advice for Canadians in order to protect their identity during the holiday season:

  1. Shred statements, bills and direct mail; don’t just throw them in the garbage.

  2. Only take the credit and debit cards you need out with you when shopping.

  3. Keep track of what you spend.

  4. Only shop on secure websites; do not enter any financial information if you see a broken-key or open padlock symbol on your Internet browser.

  5. Protect your PIN numbers.

  6. Always check bank statements and credit card statements thoroughly.

  7. Be aware of what personal information you are sharing and the measures in place to protect it.

  8. Review your credit report annually so that you can identify any abnormal activity. There are two credit report agencies in Canada: Equifax and TransUnion. You can order a free report from both of these.

For further information, see our ‘Guide to Protecting Your Identity’ at www.royalsunalliance.ca.

Royal & SunAlliance offers all home policy customers free identity theft protection in the amount of $30,000, which includes:

  • Telephone assistance: 24 hour/7 days a week, toll-free hotline with experienced counselors to guide people through the process following identity theft. Hotline representatives can refer callers to lawyers who can assist them in re-establishing their identity.

  • Identity theft expense coverage: including costs incurred to notarize or certify documents, mailing costs, loan application fees, and defense costs and other legal expenses.

  • Identity theft financial loss coverage: coverage for financial loss pertaining to goods or services, loans, mortgages, real estate, bank services fees or taxes incurred as a result of the inability to recover funds, from credit card companies, for example.

  • Identity theft loss of income coverage: up to a maximum of $750 per week.

About Royal & SunAlliance
The Royal & SunAlliance Canada group includes Roins Financial Services Limited, Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada, Quebec Assurance Company, Johnson Inc., Western Assurance Company, and Ascentus Insurance Ltd., and is part of Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group plc. The Royal & SunAlliance Canada group employs more than 2,500 people and is represented by a large network of independent brokers across the country. In 2005, the Canadian Group wrote $1.4 billion in direct premiums, with assets exceeding $4.5 billion.