How Many Times Could I Be So Un­lucky?

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Cover Story - BY MEGHANN JOHN­STON (AS TOLD TO ANNA-KAISA WALKER)

I’ve had my bank ac­count raided by iden­tity thieves three times. The first time, in 2012, I was a busy, stressed-out law stu­dent at Queen’s Uni­ver­sity in Kingston, Ont., when I got a phone call from the lo­cal branch of my bank ask­ing me to visit them in per­son im­me­di­ately. They told me that a young woman had im­per­son­ated me us­ing fake I.D. and had with­drawn over $26,000 from my stu­dent line of credit.

The bank re­funded my money, but a year later, it hap­pened again. This time, po­lice caught the thief, a dif­fer­ent woman than the first. Claim­ing to be me, the 18-year-old had ob­tained a new debit card and PIN in or­der to with­draw sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars from my ac­count. The branch man­ager be­came sus­pi­cious and phoned my fa­ther, ask­ing him for my phys­i­cal de­scrip­tion. As it hap­pened, she looked noth­ing like me. The cops rec­og­nized her from the se­cu­rity footage and ar­rested her.

I in­sisted that the bank put a phys­i­cal de­scrip­tion or a pass­word re­quire­ment on my file, but they told me their com­puter sys­tem didn’t have that ca­pac­ity. Un­be­liev­ably, I was tar­geted again in 2014, in a nearly iden­ti­cal man­ner. This time, the thief, yet an­other young woman, stole al­most $7,000.

I was fu­ri­ous with my bank and switched to a new one that agreed to re­quire a ver­bal pass­word and spe­cific pieces of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for any­one try­ing to ac­cess my ac­count. I still have no idea why I’ve been vic­tim­ized over and over again. I’d never had any in­di­ca­tion that my SIN was com­pro­mised, and I’ve only ever lost my wal­let once, when I was 14.

If you want my ad­vice, never do busi­ness with a bank that won’t take your iden­tity theft con­cerns se­ri­ously. Also, I shred all my per­sonal doc­u­ments and I’m care­ful about what in­for­ma­tion I give out—for ex­am­ple, when I re­turn some­thing to a store, I’ll fill in fake ad­dress in­for­ma­tion on the re­fund slip.

What hap­pened over the past few years has re­ally left a mark. I’ve had my car bro­ken into, and it’s a sim­i­lar sense of per­sonal in­va­sion, es­pe­cially when there’s been some­one walk­ing around pre­tend­ing to be you. It’s not a good feel­ing, and I am still re­luc­tant to give out any per­sonal de­tails to any­one. I wish I could know that it won’t hap­pen again.

If you want my ad­vice, never do busi­ness with a bank that won’t take your iden­tity theft con­cerns se­ri­ously.

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