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Identity Theft Resources: A Guide for When the Unthinkable Happens

Identity theft, as a rule, knows no boundaries. Private businesses, medical centres, individuals — even the deceased — are under threat of fraud at any given day. For those running a commercial or medical enterprise, securing our shredding services is an occupational imperative, as there are both provincial and federal laws regulating the way in which personal information is destroyed. Failure to adhere to these policies can result in the company or health centre facing harsh fines. Unfortunately, the laws that motivate businesses to take the appropriate actions to protection confidential information don’t exist for individuals. With no law policing the way they dispose of personal information, the only punishment they face is the fallout of becoming a victim of fraud. Sometimes, this isn’t enough to motivate people living in the GTA to secure our residential shredding services.

According to the latest report published by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Ontario has the highest number victims in the country. They say hindsight is 20/20, which is why many of the new customers we greet each month reveal they’ve been victims of identity theft. It’s only after they’ve had their personal information stolen and used to open fraudulent account that they realize the importance of storing and disposing of confidential material like tax returns, financial statements, account numbers, and contact information.

Our number one mission is to prevent identity theft from ever happening, which is why we provide the GTA with dependable mobile shredding services. But barring that, we want to provide our neighbours with the support they need in order to recover from fraud quickly, with as little impact on their finances as possible. That’s why we thought it prudent to publish this helpful list of resources for those who are currently struggling with theft. Though by no means exhaustive, this list includes several organizations that can help you manage the effects of fraud.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC)

The CAFC is Canada’s primary agency that collects information about fraud, and they’re an important resource for those who have found themselves victims. They have a convenient online method of reporting an incident of fraud. They also provide key information about popular scams and ways to protect your information in the future.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

If you suspect your personal information was leaked by an organization or business, then it’s important you get in touch with this government body. They provide you with the support you need in order to file a complaint against the business in question.

Credit Reporting Agencies

There are two major credit bureaus in Canada, and we suggest you contact both. Inform TransUnion and Equifax that you have been a victim of fraud and ask that a fraud warning be placed on your account. You may also want to ask for your credit report, to understand where and how you were defrauded.

Identification Agencies

In the event that your personal information was used to create new identifications, you’ll need to inform the appropriate department of the theft and to request for new ID. For a new passport, you’ll have to contact a Passport Canada office. For a compromised Social Insurance Number (SIN), you’ll need to contact your nearest Service Canada office. For provincial forms of ID, such as your driver’s licence and OHIP card, you’ll have to contact a Service Ontario office.

Of course, in addition to the organizations listed above, you must absolutely contact your banking institution and your local police department. A report must be made with both of these institutions in order to control the extent of the theft and to pursue any legal action against the thief who stole your personal information.

Once all of these organizations have been alerted of your predicament, the final number you need to call is ours. One quick phone call to our offices to set up a regular shredding appointment will protect your personal information, preventing it from being taken and used against your will. Give us a call and join the individuals and businesses across the GTA who have taken this final step to protect their confidential material.

Add comment October 13th, 2016

AAA NAID Certification — Accreditation You Can Trust

Now that identity theft is not only a crime that’s here to stay but actively growing in frequency, the search for a shredding service that can help you dispose of your confidential documents is critical. But it’s a search fraught with choice, as the GTA is inundated with shredding companies offering professional document destruction. Many of our customers, before they experience our shredding first hand, ask what puts us ahead of the pack, and our answer is simple. We don’t try to win their business by using empty marketing rhetoric, like speedy service and superior customer service. We provide them with cold, hard, quantifiable facts, like our AAA NAID certification.

The accreditation awarded by the National Association for Information is a benchmark for the document destruction industry. It’s the primary credential for any service that provides secure shredding services, as it guarantees competency in following accurate disposal laws and security procedures. Without a NAID membership and an AAA certification, a shredding company doesn’t satisfy industry standards or federal laws regarding the destruction of personal information. Their failure to adhere to these laws could result in an information leak that puts your company’s reputation and your client’s information at risk.

NAID is a third party trade association governed by certified auditors, IT specialists, security professionals, and disposal experts who create and verify the regulatory requirements shredding services have to follow in order to meet international data procedures and data protection laws. Any company wishing to achieve their certification must meet their strict screening procedures and technical requirements. This vetting process involves examination of a shredding service’s operational and security procedures, including the ways in which documents are collected, the final size of the shredded pieces, and the screening and training methods employed in the hiring process.

Beyond the initial vetting process that awards shredding companies their membership NAID carries out regular, yet unannounced, inspections of their operations. Security auditors will arrive without advanced warnings and evaluate the security of their facilities, mobile shredding trucks, and procedures. These auditors, certified by a third-party company devoted to global security, have a checklist of items and activities that they look out for in order to confirm the shredding service’s continued compliance to NAID’s policies.

So far, only 900 shredding companies in the world have achieved AAA certification from NAID, and you can count Absolute Destruction amongst them. We’ve achieved our AAA NAID membership so that our customers can feel confident about the security of our residential, commercial, and electronic data destruction services. Regardless of the reason behind your call or the size or frequency of your needs, we offer secure mobile shredding in compliance with international data procedures and protection laws, including Canada’s very own PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) and PHIPA (Personal Health Information Protection Act).

Whether we’re visiting your home or your place of business, know that our bonded staff and professional services are guaranteed to destroy — without a doubt — any physical or digital material (and the personal information that they hold). And it’s all thanks to our AAA NAID certification. You can trust this accreditation more than any claim we can make about our business, which is why we proudly showcase our membership on our homepage. Give us a call when you’re ready to experience what it’s like working with an authorized shredding service.

Add comment October 7th, 2016

Thank You Very Much, Mr. Robot(o)

Our secure electronic data destruction services make up a good bulk of our business, as companies and homeowners alike recognize the danger of letting their discarded digital documents go unchecked. Though we don’t need it, our services have been vindicated by an early episode of the USA Network’s hit-series, Mr. Robot. For those of our readers who are following along with Mr. Robot’s second season, please don’t spoil us; we’re still a little behind. The first season, however, is fair game, and we’d like to recall a scene from its second episode.

Still reeling from his forced meeting with Tyrell Wellick, the main character, Elliot, decides to hack the CTO of Evil Corp. Halfway through the job, Elliot realizes it’s too easy to hack Tyrell, making him believe the CTO let him in order to get his digital trace. To hide the evidence of his hack, viewers watch the computer programmer completely dismantle his set-up. Elliot even goes as far as microwaving his SD cards and drilling holes through his hard drive in order to wipe any sign of his mistake from his computer.

This episode says a lot about how digital memory is stored and retained. In the sphere of the show, where elite computer programmers abound, the typical means average people use to delete information isn’t enough. Overwriting or reformatting the HDD several times is not only time consuming, it’s also not foolproof, as some of the data is retained. A dedicated and talented programmer will still be able to work around these overwrites.

Mr. Robot may be fiction, but it’s based in a world that’s almost identical to our own. We aren’t suggesting that those who take advantage of our electronic data services are using them to erase the evidence of illegal hacking, but we are suggesting that we live alongside computer programmers capable of getting around average means of digital file destruction. Simply dragging files and programmes to the recycling bin isn’t enough. If they find your discarded gadget and feel the need to go digging, they’ll be able to retrieve these documents and all of the information they once held. That includes financial account numbers, tax records, and contact information — all valuable data that can be used in identity theft.

The only way to permanently erase the information that is kept on your old computers, hard drives, and other digital accessories is through complete destruction. When the chips, CD-ROMS, and other data go through our mobile shredders’ teeth, there’s simple not enough of the original gadget to retrieve. We can guarantee destruction so your personal information is safe.

It doesn’t matter if you have a single gadget or a stockpile of obsolete devices. Regardless of how many phones, computers, and hard drives you need to discard, don’t throw them out with the trash. Not only will this negatively impact the environment, as our electronics contain metals and chemicals that have no business in our landfills, it can open you up to the risk of identity theft. Take a tip from Elliot, but don’t go through the difficulty of dismantling your device on your own. Make the smart choice by arranging an electronic data destruction appointment with our mobile shredders. It’s the only way to keep your digital information safe.

Add comment September 26th, 2016

Avoiding Identity Theft Can Be Simple

We talk big about the threat of fraud and identity theft and that’s because it consequences are dire. Nearly 15,000 Canadians were victims in 2014. According to the Annual Statistic Report completed by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, these 15,000 cases were responsible for roughly $74 million in defrauded funds. That’s nearly $5,000 per case. While the report outlines fraud’s immediate financial effects, it fails to take into account the emotional fallout of being a victim. It also doesn’t document the time and effort that goes into sorting out compromised finances.

For an issue that can cause such extensive damage, it’s relatively simple to avoid. We’ve collected some of our painless tips to protect your personal information and reduce your chances of ever becoming a victim. The following list is a combination of preventative measures and defensive actions you can take to save your identity.

Document Destruction
Our first and most formidable line of defence will be effective document disposal. Without it, important documents and obsolete electronics containing personal information will go in your regular trash where it’s vulnerable to theft. In order to keep the various contact information, financial account numbers, tax records, and documentation of your SIN and OHIP out of the hands of criminals, make sure you take advantage of our mobile shredding services. Our friendly team of vetted shredding professionals will ensure any paper and digital item is utterly destroyed. With a guarantee of both destruction and recycling, it’s the only way to know for sure your information is processed without a chance of recovery.

Clean out Your Wallet
Don’t pull a George Constanza — the Seinfeld character who kept his wallet so full of receipts and other cards that it eventually burst. The only things of note your wallet should contain are cash, your licence, and any immediate credit cards you plan to use. Unfortunately, time and time again, we hear of an individual who has their wallet stolen, and with their cash and credit cards, they lose their OHIP, SIN, and other important documents. As a general rule, they shouldn’t be kept in your wallet, where they can be stolen or easily misplaced. Keep these important documents behind at home in a safe place. There’s no reason to keep your SIN or your OHIP on your person, unless you need them to register for a job or visit the doctors.

Be Mindful of Your Finances
You should be aware of the activity on your various accounts. By keeping tabs on your chequing, savings, and credit card accounts, you can identify any suspicious purchases or withdrawals. Now that you can access these accounts online, it’s easy to log in and check on your finances at any time you have access to a smartphone or computer. Early detection is better than nothing, giving you an opportunity to cancel any affected accounts immediately and reducing the cost of the theft considerably.

Though simple, these three steps are a sure-fire way to lower you chances of becoming a victim of fraud. As you clear out your wallet and start keeping tabs on your finances, remember to give us a call. Our shredding services are available in one-time purges and regular appointments. Together, we can keep your confidential files out of the hands of thieves.

Add comment September 21st, 2016

A Gentle Reminder about Mail Fraud

A week rarely goes by without some news agency reporting the discovery of an identity theft ring. Usually, these articles hail from somewhere in the United States — a country with a population roughly 9 times that of Canada and a rate of identity theft that’s suitably much larger than our own. But every so often, we’ll read up on a local story, reminding us that identity theft is still very much an issue that knows no boundaries. Toronto and the GTA are no less immune to fraud as anywhere else in the world if people fail to undertake preventative measures to protect their personal information.

Case in point: the CBC reported on a large fraud and identity theft ring based out of Toronto. Back in June, the main suspect was a 44-year-old man who was wanted for 181 charges, including counts of impersonation, forgery, counterfeit, and selling identities in addition to fraud and identity theft. The June bust uncovered multiple birth certificates, driver’s licences, credit cards, and other I.D. using genuine personal information partnered with the accused’s picture. Detectives of the Toronto Police Service’s Fraud Division say these identification cards were then used to open accounts at banks, payday loan lenders, and other financials organizations under other people’s names.

How was he able to pull off such a successful incidence of fraud? For one thing, the police say he wasn’t working alone. For another, he stole mail in order to find the personal information from those robbed of their identities. He then redirected any notices from these false accounts to a new address, so his victims were blissfully unaware of any suspicious activity.

While under the constant threat of Canada Post’s strike, you may have given up physical mail for good, yet even those who have embraced e-mail and e-bills with equal aplomb will receive various pieces of mail that contain private information. These letters, bills, and other documents are exactly the kind of material that the accused fraudster used to open his many false accounts.

Your mailbox doesn’t have to be an easy target. Some tips to keep your mail private include:

  • Checking for mail regularly and keeping your mailbox clear;
  • Making sure your mailbox is locked, if possible;
  • Knowing when you’re expecting government issued documents, including licence renewals, tax information, and cheques; and
  • Keeping track of physical communications from financial institutions, knowing when new credit and debit cards are to arrive.

When you know the approximate arrival time of important documents and identification, you’ll realize these items are late or missing entirely faster than if you didn’t. As soon as something like a credit card or licence fails to reach your home within the specified time, it’s important to notify these financial organizations or government departments of your issue. Alternatively, should you receive any notification welcoming you as a new customer to an account or organization you have had no contact with previously, this may be a red flag of fraud.

As for the physical evidence left behind by these delivered documents, our regular readers will know our policy. Any piece of mail that contains contact information, account numbers, tax information, or your Social Insurance Number must never find its way into your garbage or recycling bin. Just like your mailbox, these containers are prime targets for those fraudsters searching for easy information to steal, defraud, and sell. The only way to guarantee your personal information is protected — even when you have no need of it — is through our secure shredding services. With mobile shredders that have the National Association for Information Destruction’s seal of approval, we can incinerate all of your paper and digital documents for good.

With a keen eye towards your mailbox, an understanding of your finances, and a regular appointment with our mobile shredders, you don’t have to worry about mail fraud or identity theft. Let’s keep Toronto and the GTA out of the news. Call us so we can work together to keep your personal information protected.

Add comment September 14th, 2016

Smartphones: Friend or Foe?

At this point in time, you can carry most of the world in your pocket. No, we don’t mean the grains of sand that you haven’t been able to get out since your last trip to the beach. We’re talking about the small, black rectangle you call a smartphone. It’s far from an ordinary phone. You can connect with people all around the world with a swipe of its touchscreen. You can access detailed maps of your upcoming road trip. You can even hook it up with other gadgets in your home, allowing you to lock doors and adjust the temperature of your house remotely.

In many ways, this gadget has made your life easier. From gaming to household management, the apps you’ve downloaded on your phone can simplify your daily routine. But they also create new problems. When you start storing personal information on your smartphone – like your contact details, account numbers, and other preferences – you’re opening up yourself to new security threats. If you’re not careful, you can accidentally release data to individuals and corporations that have no business knowing this information.

The most common way of doing this is by losing your phone or by having it stolen. In Canada, there are no reliable statistics recording the number of lost or stolen gadgets, but the studies released from our neighbours to the south can give you a good idea of how prevalent this issue is. Nearly 3 million Americans had their cellphone stolen in 2013, and this figure will only rise as the number of individuals who own smartphones increases. Even if you aren’t specifically targeted by cellphone thieves, it’s not hard to accidentally misplace these small rectangular gadgets out in the world. That’s why it’s so important to consider our following pieces of advice – just in case you end up losing your phone.

Use passwords
Smartphones come equipped with convenient password protection features to secure your privacy, and we suggest you take advantage of the pattern-based or alpha-numeric password functions. It may be annoying to have to input this information every time you check your phone, but trust us – it pales in comparison to the inconvenience of losing a phone that can be opened by anyone with two thumbs. Once these passwords are engaged, only those with the appropriate passkey or pattern can access the information stored on the phone. With one protecting your phone, you’ll ensure no one will be able to look up the personal information stored on your apps or in your files because they won’t be able to get past your locked screen.

Beware of apps
Most of us think nothing of downloading the latest app. If we have the sudden need for the latest game and we have the space for it, then it finds its way onto our phones as quickly as our Internet can download it. But you may want to rethink what you’re putting onto your phone before you do it, considering what sort of information it requires. Financial apps will obviously need access to your personal information, but they’re not the only apps to use or store your data. Even seemingly harmless games, messaging services, and photo apps will access your personal information, so it’s important you read their terms and conditions before you allow it permission. Only approve apps from trusted sources.

Think twice before selling
With the way smartphones cost nowadays, you may want to sell your old model before you upgrade. While this is a sensible way to augment the financial burden of having the best generation, it can be a cause for alarm. Your phone stores a lot of files. Photographs, Internet history, and app information are kept on its chips. Deleting them and returning the phone to factory settings isn’t enough. No data purge is comprehensive enough for those trained to locate hidden files. Those who search out old phones for sales can easily access old passwords, private files, and financial information.

The only way to guarantee your information is gone for good is through the complete and utter destruction of your phone. It doesn’t matter how good an individual is with gadgets; a shredded motherboard is impossible to read. Our electronic data services ensure that there’s nothing left to find once it passes through our NAID-approved mobile shredders. The blades that make up our shredders will pulverize your smartphone, as well as any other gadget you want destroyed. We take on the GTA’s obsolete computers, CD-ROMs, hard drives, memory sticks, and other electronics with ease, as we can destroy these items as easily as the paper we shred. And just like the paper files that pass through our shredders, we can recycle the leftover parts of your electronics.

A smartphone may open you up to new risks. But – in our opinion – they’re worth it for all that they do to improve the quality of your life. As long as you’re careful with how you use it, you won’t have to worry about the consequences of losing your phone and sharing private information. So create a password for your phone and start reading up on the apps you use before you download them. And don’t forget to call us to set up a shredding appointment for all of your obsolete devices.

Add comment August 29th, 2016

Identity Theft: What to Do When it Happens

Despite it being our mission to provide document destruction services to everyone in the GTA, we simply can’t help everyone. Misinformation is our biggest hurdle. People simply aren’t aware that they need to protect their personal information (PI) when they dispose of it. Without knowing any better, they can accidentally share private details by throwing out files and obsolete electronics. It doesn’t always result in identity theft or fraud. But all it takes is for the right person to find your information before you’re dealing with the personal and financial consequences of a breach of PI.

Until we get the word out to all of the GTA and change everyone’s disposal methods, identity theft will happen. When it does, it’s in your best interest to start the recovery process as soon as you’ve realized it’s happened. It’s more frustrating and time consuming than you’d think, which is why we’ve developed a convenient guide on what to do should you suspect your PI has been stolen.

Make a Report
Your number one priority is to alert the authorities about the theft. This is an essential step should you ever need to prove to any financial institutions or creditors that a crime has been committed, so be sure to file a report right away. Once you’ve made your report, you can contact your bank and other financial organizations. Chances are your bank has already noticed unusual activity on your account, as they’ve created special algorithms to analyze your buying patterns. If they haven’t noticed any suspicious activity, you’ll want to clarify which purchases were made without your authorization. They’ll also be able to cancel any credit card accounts that have been compromised before flagging your account.

Notify the Government
Once you’ve alerted the authorities and banks about the situation, you’ll have prevented any more additional charges from being made in your name; however, you shouldn’t stop there. If your Social Insurance Number (SIN) was involved in the breach, your name may be used to create fraudulent identities. It’s important that you get in touch with Service Canada to inform them of your stolen PI. They’ll be able to reissue both federal and provincial identification, like your Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card and your SIN card. Often identity thieves will open up credit accounts under your name and have the cards sent to a new address. We suggest alerting Canada Post about your situation too and making a formal address update to ensure no mail is redirected inappropriately.

Speak with a Credit Bureau
Your next step is to monitor your credit. You can work in conjunction with one of the country’s top crediting bureaus (such as Equifax, for example) to examine your ongoing credit activity. With their help, you’ll be able to see any additional fraudulent accounts open in your name that you weren’t aware of. We also recommend you apply a fraud warning on your account. This flag will stay on your account for six years, and it will warn lenders that your poor credit score is due to fraud.

It may take some time to get through this entire list. It may also take a lot of will power to work with the various organizations, creditors, and institutions necessary to flag, cancel, and monitor your accounts. Comparatively, the effort it takes to prevent identity theft is negligible. You only need to pick up the phone and speak with one of our representatives to schedule an appointment . Our mobile shredders will arrive at your house or place of business, where we’ll destroy your files and electronics using the latest NAID-approved techniques. Our shredders are equipped with sharp, complex blades that can completely demolish the paper and devices that hold your PI. Thieves wouldn’t be able to retrieve this information even if given the opportunity to go through this waste. Of course, they won’t because we immediately deliver these items to a secure recycling facility.

When you schedule our document destruction services, you remove the opportunity for thieves to come across and use your PI. So think about how you dispose of your paper and electronics. If they store confidential information like your contact details, account numbers, passwords, and other financial material, they can’t be thrown out with the rest of the trash. They need the guarantee of destruction that only we can provide.

Add comment August 22nd, 2016

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