Even though you've likely heard about data breaches in the news recently, it may still surprise you to learn that over 4 billion records were hacked in 2016. Criminals are trying to fill in the pieces when it comes to identity theft against you and your family.
It's essential to protect your information by periodically organizing, locking up and shredding data-sensitive documents. If you're not sure where your Social Insurance Number card is (Hint: it's such a key component to your identity that Service Canada doesn't even issue them any longer), or your CRA notices of assessment for example, you'll want to pay extra close attention to these steps.
Before You Start
Shannon Lee Simmons, author of Worry-Free Money: The guilt-free approach to managing your money and your life suggests that you "invest in a solid filing cabinet with a lock and a strong shredder."
Your Checklist for Protecting Sensitive Documents
In your home:
- Lock up passports that you don't use, Social Insurance Number cards, birth certificates and any application forms you might have for RESPs, RSPs, TFSAs, RRIFs or other forms that contain valuable information about you and your family
- Keep a copy of your credit and debit cards (front and back) locked up in a file cabinet in the event of an emergency, along with copies of your car registration and insurance in case they get stolen
- Take pictures of your passport and driver's licence and save them to a safe cloud service or email them to yourself – just be sure to know how to wipe your phone if it's stolen and remember your email password if you need to access these documents during an emergency while travelling
- Have your Power of Attorney documents locked in a cabinet at home, but not in a safety deposit box. Wills are best in safety deposit boxes and with your lawyer – but you'll want your Power Of Attorney to be accessible in case of emergency
Important Things to Watch Out For at Home:
- Don't leave critical documents laying around, like mortgage, bank or credit card statements
- Don't toss any piece of paper that has your name, address, account number or more on it – when in doubt, shred it
- Don't forget about bills that come in – make a list of all your credit and bank statements and check them off as they come in – if they start to go missing, it may be a first sign that an identity thief is diverting mail from your home
Documents to Keep In Your Car:
Documents to Not Leave in Your Car:
- Don't keep cash or valuables anywhere in your vehicle or trunk
- Don't leave spare house keys or other ways to access your home easily
- Don't keep blank cheques, debit or credit cards
Documents to Keep in Your Wallet and Purse:
- Carry your debit card and one or two credit cards, maximum
- A copy of your prescriptions with blood type
- Your provincial health care card
- Your driver's licence
Documents to Leave Out of Your Wallet:
- Don't carry every card you have
- Don't carry your Social Insurance Number
- Don't carry your birth certificate
- Don't carry loyalty cards (use apps instead if they're offered)
Also, don't share your information with anyone who asks for a photocopy of your driver's licence — and don't allow for photocopies to be made, either — without understanding what that information will be used for and how it will be stored.