City police are warning Edmontonians to be vigilant about identity fraud by picking up mail regularly in order to protect personal and financial information.
In a news release, Edmonton police said there were 986 reports of identity fraud and 161 victims last year that reported an overall loss of $1,032,839.25. While most victims had no monetary loss, they had their personal and financial information used to commit additional fraud.
Sometimes, police said, mail thieves can get lucky by breaking into the right mailbox at the right time. Leanne was one of those victims and shared her story as part of fraud prevention month.
Shortly after Christmas in 2018, Leanne, who police only identified by her first name, had returned home after attending a funeral. She picked up her mail and noticed three envelopes from various banks she did not use.
She previously worked at a bank and knew not to ignore mail coming from financial institutions, even though they weren’t from her bank.
When she opened the letters, one had a debit card for an account she never opened and the other had a replacement debit card that had two accounts opened in her name. The third included a copy of an attempted cashed cheque, which was altered, for over $2,000 that someone tried to deposit onto one of the new accounts.
Pin numbers arrived in the mail shortly after the debit cards for the fraudulent accounts.
Leanne went to each bank to report the fraudulent accounts and have them closed. She also went to her own bank and informed them of her apparent identity fraud, so they would watch her accounts in case the fraudster tried the same scam at her institution.
A year later, Leanne had two Walmart Rewards credit cards show up in her mail. Again, she went to the nearest location to report the fraudulent account and have it closed.
“Even though I didn’t lose money, my credit was affected,” Leanne said in the release. “It is so time-consuming, and you just constantly worry about it happening again.”
She is also waiting for her T4 to be delivered and is concerned that it may have been taken when her community mailboxes were broken into.
“Some financial institutions and businesses can provide temporary cards for their customer to use for a set time, with a set limit, until their official card is mailed to them,” Det. Linda Herczeg said.
“And if the suspect has assumed someone else’s identity, the institution has no reason to suspect foul play. Unfortunately for innocent victims like Leanne, this has allowed fraudsters to open accounts in her name.”
With tax season upon us, the Canada Revenue Agency now has email notifications that can help citizens actively monitor their online CRA accounts for suspicious activity.
“This will trigger an automatic alert if any major changes are made to your file, including notifications if your mailing address is updated or if someone modifies your direct deposit information for refunds and credits,” said TJ Madigan, communications manager for the CRA.
Citizens are reminded to pick up mail regularly and if going on vacation, either have your mail forwarded to a Canada Post location or have a trusted person to pick it up for you.