If you think you may be a victim of a scam or fraud, there are some key steps you should take immediately to reduce your risk of losing more money, protect your personal information and avoid being scammed again.
If someone has used your credit card
If you think someone has used your credit card, contact your credit card company immediately. The law in BC says that once you report your card as lost or stolen, you aren’t responsible for any use of the card after that point.
If someone used your credit card before you report it as lost or stolen, you only have to pay up to $50. However, many credit card companies will waive the $50 charge.
If you’ve been tricked into signing a contract or buying a product or service
You may be protected by laws that provide you with a "cooling‑off" period, during which you can cancel any contract that you signed. You don’t have to have any reason for cancelling.
If your identity has been stolen
If someone has taken your personal information and used it to access your finances, make purchases in your name, or commit other crimes, they have committed identity theft. This is a criminal offence.
Identity theft can damage your credit report. A credit report is a detailed list of your credit and bill-paying history, and other information about you. Your credit report helps businesses, banks and others decide if you are likely to pay your bills on time. There are steps you can take to protect or repair your credit report (see below under "Deal with the problem").
Step 1. Stop communicating with the scammer
Immediately stop all communication with the person or company involved in the scam.
Step 2. Gather any information you have
Gather any records you have relating to the scam—any emails or other communication with the scammer, banking statements, contracts, and marketing materials used for the scam (such as brochures or online ads).
Make a list of any money or information that may be lost or stolen. Write down details of any credit card information, bank account numbers or identification that may have gone missing.
Leave room on your list for steps you take going forward. As you contact authorities, financial institutions, and other agencies, keep track of their contact details and any information you learn. This will help clear your name and re-establish your credit.
Step 3. If a credit card or bank account is involved, notify your financial institutions
If you think someone has used your credit card or accessed your bank account, immediately notify your financial institutions. Cancel any credit cards that are affected. Close or put a hold on any affected accounts.
If you think someone has stolen your identity, ask your financial institutions to investigate the identity theft. Find out if the institution requires written documentation to begin investigating. Send them any documentation they require as soon as possible.
Step 4. If any identification is missing, cancel it
If any government-issued identification was lost or stolen, contact the agency issuing the document:
- For a SIN card or passport, call Service Canada at 1-800-O-Canada.
- For a BC driver’s licence, call ICBC's Driver Licensing Info Line at 1-800-950-1498.
- For a BC health card, call Health Insurance BC at 1-800-663-7100.
Explain what happened, and find out how to get replacement documents.
Step 5. If any mail is missing, contact Canada Post
If you think your mail is being stolen or redirected, contact Canada Post’s customer service department at 1-866-607-6301 or www.canadapost.ca.
Step 6. Protect your devices
If you used your computer or cellphone to communicate with a scam operator, or your device was infected by a scam:
- take your device to a professional to have it checked
- make sure you have up-to-date software to prevent spam (email that is not wanted) and viruses (harmful computer programs)
- install software to prevent spyware (malicious software installed on your device without you realizing it)
Step 7. Report the incident to the police
If you suffered a loss because of a scam, report the incident to your local police department.
If you think your identity may have been stolen, you do not need to know the name of the person who used your identity. Show the police the unauthorized charges, debt collection letters, or other evidence that you are the victim of this crime.
Ask the police for a report number and record it. Banks and creditors sometimes ask for proof of a crime to erase debts created by a scam or identity theft. If a police report is filed, include the police report number in all correspondence you have relating to the incident.
Step 8. Contact the credit reporting agencies
Discuss with the credit reporting agencies whether to have a “fraud alert” placed on your file. A fraud alert means that businesses or banks will call you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing accounts.
Ask each credit reporting agency to send you a copy of your credit report. The agencies must send you a free copy of your report in the mail if you ask them to. You can also get your report online but you might have to pay for that.
The credit report may show if the scammer or thief incurred debt or opened accounts in your name.
You can contact the two credit reporting agencies at:
Step 9. Report the incident to consumer agencies
Report the incident to the agencies that help protect consumers.
- If you are the victim of a scam or identity theft, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) by going to their website or calling 1-888-495-8501. The CAFC is the central agency in Canada that collects information about fraud and identity theft. They don’t conduct investigations but they do help law enforcement agencies by identifying connections among seemingly unrelated cases. If you report the scam, it may prevent others from being ripped off by the scam operator.
- If you are the victim of a scam, report it to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker. Reporting the scam helps the Better Business Bureau investigate and warn others about the scam. To complain about a business, you can file a complaint with the BBB.
- If you’ve been tricked into signing a contract or buying a product or service, report the incident to Consumer Protection BC by going to their website or calling 1-888-564-9963.
Step 10. Consider legal action
You can consider taking legal action against those involved in the scam or fraud. If you don’t have a lawyer, there are options for free or low-cost legal help.
If you think you have been the victim of a scam or identity theft, there are agencies you can contact for support and advice.
VictimLink BC is a toll-free 24/7 information and support line for victims of crime in British Columbia.
TTY: 604-875-0885 (for hard of hearing)
The Credit Counselling Society is a non-profit society that provides support for people struggling with debt and counselling to help manage their money better.