Take precautionary measures against identity theft


Identity theft is nothing new. Fraudsters steal your personal identity information (PII) and use it to engage in various criminal activities – from robbing your bank accounts to depleting your line of credit – all without your knowledge.


Identity theft has increasingly expanded into an industrial scale operation, as stolen personal information becomes coveted commodities in the online marketplace. For sales signs are popping up across the deep and dark net, and cyberspace has become an online haven for credit fraudsters. 


Dark net is inaccessible by search engines. It was initially created for political dissidents to communicate anonymously to evade government censorship, but now identity thieves can buy and sell PIIs for as little as 50 cents.  Victims of the dark net are all over the place and across borders – from Katie Nicholas, who found unauthorized transactions in her bank account, to a Canadian woman whose account at RBC was looted three times by unknown identity thieves.

Canadian woman’s bank nightmare


According to CBC, in 2012, a fraudster walked into an RBC branch during business hours pretending to be a woman named Johnston, presenting fake ID and was allowed to withdraw money from her account.


The woman found out that $26,000 was withdrawn by the fraudster using her line of credit. One year later, someone had walked into an RBC bank in Oakville and took thousands from her personal account. According to RBC, the thief used a driver's license and a citizenship card with her information.


And in December it happened again. This time the fraudster walked out with almost $7,000.


According to Johnston, she was born in Canada and her wallet has never been stolen.  But it is likely that her identity was stolen through social media and has been repeatedly sold on the dark net.


According to cyber security expert, once the information is out on the web, it won’t be destroyed and will become popular commodities on the network.


In 2009, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received identity fraud reports from 11,095 Canadian victims, totaling a loss of more than 10 million dollars, up from $1 million dollars of the number in 2008. Still, many instances of identity theft and fraud go unreported.

Taking self-protection actions


The chances of falling for dark net victims are not as remote as you expect. I, myself might have become such a victim.

在几周前,我收到一个讨债公司的来信,要求我向医疗机构UHN-MSH 临床麻醉部(UHN-MSH Clinical Anaesthesia Associates)支付$1009.95元欠款。

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from a collection agency, requesting me to make a payment of $1009.95 to a medical agency – UHN-MSH Clinical Anaesthesia Associates.


The letter further threatens to take me to the Small Claims Court, if I don’t make the payment within 5 days.


I’ve never been hospitalized, nor incurred any anaethesia bills. I suspected fraud and decided to investigate.


My investigation found that it was a debt collection scam. Debt collectors are using abusive tactics preying on vulnerable people who don’t even owe a penny, clinging on the hope that victims will succumb to threats and make demanded payments. Apparently, they had collected my personal information – including my full name and address.


Suspicious of becoming another dark net victim, I immediately took actions to avoid further damages. I’ve changed passwords on several accounts that contain sensitive information.


Luckily my bank account remains intact. I owe it to my prompt efforts to prevent further damages. Precaution is always the best way to deal with crime.

Note: The story was published in Chinese News in March, 2015.

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