Identity theft on the rise: Canadians uncertain about warning signs

New survey from Johnson Insurance reveals the identity theft education gap leaving Canadians unprotected

  • 52 per cent of Canadians are unable to identify all of the warning signs that someone has stolen their personal information for the purposes of identity theft, when provided with a list.
  • 42 per cent of Canadians have noticed an overall increase in suspicious emails, texts, phone calls, or online advertisements recently.

Toronto, ON (Sept. 28, 2020) – As instances of fraud and identity theft have been on the rise in the wake of COVID-19, Canadians are equally split on knowing how to spot it. According to a recent survey  commissioned by Johnson Insurance, a leading property and casualty insurer which offers identity theft protection, more than half (52 per cent) of Canadians are unable to identify all of the warning signs that they have become a victim of identity theft, when provided with a list of the signs.

According to the survey, 27 per cent of Canadians have noticed an increase in suspicious COVID-19-related activity on fraudulent websites and online advertisements, as well as increased suspicious emails (23 per cent), and text messages or phone calls (20 per cent).

“COVID-19 has created new avenues for identity theft – including applications for the CERB in the name of an identity theft victim,” says Alex Rafuse, Vice President, Home & Auto, Johnson Insurance. “With more people working from home during the pandemic – answering home phone calls or disposing of personal and work-related documents in residential recycling bins – there is a higher than normal susceptibility to fraud.”

According to the survey, Canadians are most familiar with the direct, financial warning signs of identity theft, such as withdrawals or charges on their accounts that they can’t explain (36 per cent of respondents identified this as a warning sign) and receiving bills for services they did not use (33 per cent). However, Canadians are least familiar with the more indirect warning signs:

  • A health plan that won’t cover them because their medical records show a condition they don’t have (11 per cent) or show they have reached their benefit limit (12 per cent);
  • Not receiving expected bills or other mail (14 per cent);
  • A creditor contacts them to approve or deny credit they did not apply for (25 per cent).

“There are many ways that fraudsters can use personal information, beyond taking money from someone’s account, including applying for loans, renting an apartment or car, or committing crimes using false information,” says Rafuse.

Protection through Prevention

The first line of defense against identity theft is prevention. Canadians can take steps to help protect themselves from identity theft with some of the following tips:


  • Use secure passwords that include a combination of capital letters, common letters, numbers, and symbols; use different passwords for all of your accounts, and change them often.
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails that ask you to follow links, login to accounts, or provide personal information.

On the Phone

  • Never provide personal information over the telephone unless you initiate the call, and never provide information via text message to an unknown sender.
  • If asked to call someone back, call the organization the person claims to belong to and confirm that the person works for them, and that the phone number is legitimate.

Around the Home

  • Avoid keeping a written record of your bank account, PIN number(s), social insurance number or card, and computer password(s) out in the open in your home. Additionally, never keep that information in a wallet or handbag.
  • Remove mail from the mailbox immediately or keep the mailbox locked, and shred or destroy all personal or sensitive documents before placing in the recycling bin.

“Remember that calls, texts and emails that are threatening, have an undue sense of urgency to them, or seem too good to be true, are likely to be scams,” says Rafuse. “We anticipate that newer methods of collecting personal information – such as those targeting Canadians applying for government assistance programs – will continue to trend upward, so it’s important to stay alert.”

Coping with Identity Theft

Even the most vigilant person can become a victim of identity theft, whether through a large-scale data breach, or by being caught off-guard by a fraudster. In fact, the survey found that 30 per cent of Canadians have accidently clicked on a fraudulent link before, and 14 per cent admit to ordering a product online that ended up being a scam.

Financial institutions may provide protection on the amounts that are kept in accounts or on credit card transactions, but many Canadians are not covered for costs that are related to identity theft such as loan application fees and legal expenses which are incurred to clear a victim’s name, reconstruct credit data and rectify consumer credit reports.

To help manage these risks, Johnson Insurance offers coverage for identity theft expenses, financial loss or loss of income incurred as a result of identity theft via its Preferred Service Home Plan.* The plan is available at no additional cost, provided that the insurance policy for the primary residence is purchased through Johnson Insurance and underwritten by Unifund.  The coverage also includes access to legal assistance and counselling to help manage the recovery process.

“Overcoming identity theft can take an average of one month to one year. Our coverage provides customers with access to both the financial and emotional support to help them through a difficult situation,” says Rafuse.

For additional information on identity theft coverage, visit

* Eligibility requirements, limitations, exclusions, additional costs and/or restrictions may apply.

About the Survey

From June 26 to June 28, 2020, an online survey of 1,512 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada panelists was executed by Maru/Blue. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been weighted by education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec, language) to match the population, according to Census data. This is to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About Johnson Insurance

Johnson Insurance has a rich Canadian heritage and opened its doors in Newfoundland and Labrador over 130 years ago. As a member of RSA Insurance Group plc., Johnson agents distribute insurance in Canada. The company is headquartered in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. For more information, visit

About RSA Canada

The RSA Canada group of companies includes Roins Financial Services Limited, Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada, Quebec Assurance Company, Johnson Inc., Unifund Assurance Company, Western Assurance Company, Ascentus Insurance Ltd., Canadian Northern Shield Insurance Company and RSA Travel Insurance Inc. (collectively, “RSA Canada”) and is part of a group of companies headed by RSA Insurance Group Plc. RSA Canada employs more than 3,000 people across Canada and is one of the oldest insurance companies in the country with roots dating back to 1833.

Source: Johnson Insurance

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