Far more is at stake from identity theft than financial injury alone, and recovering from the crime can be costly and time-consuming, an ex-RCMP officer warned Thursday.
Gerry MacKinnon represents Legal Shield and Kroll Backround America, two companies that specialize in helping victims of identity theft. His presentations are more than sales pitches, he said.
“I call it education,” MacKinnon said while giving a set of group sessions at Ora Restaurant. “In 40 years of law enforcement, I’ve seen so many people hurt. . . . It’s important for people to understand what’s out there, and is it going to go away? No.”
Identity theft involves the use of someone else’s personal data for illegal advantage. While the crime is often associated with credit card theft, that’s only one of five varieties. Other forms include theft of medical insurance numbers, driver’s licences and social insurance numbers, MacKinnon said.
False personation is yet another form of identity theft, one that can destroy reputations and even innocent lives, provoking suicides in some cases, MacKinnon noted. When criminals forge a false identity using multiple elements of stolen identification, it’s called synthetic identity theft.
“If any one of these happened to you, what time frame would it take to clean it up,” McKinnon asked. His estimate is 600 hours, the equivalent of 15 weeks of missed work.
Social insurance numbers are particularly vulnerable because no one’s watching, he said.
“I could get yours right now.” He cited one case in which $75,000 was fraudulently charged through SIN theft. Retail clerks sometimes ask for the number, but MacKinnon tells consumers to provide it only when depositing money in a bank.
As for driver’s licence theft, B.C. motorists are safeguarded in this province through a check done yearly when they renew their auto insurance, MacKinnon said.
The firms he represents recognized an increase in identity theft and are the only ones offering coverage of this type, he said. The coverage includes legal consultation and assistance in restoring credentials.