Aug 27, 2017 by

stop ID theftMs. Money Counselor and I recently enjoyed a short holiday in the beautiful city of Victoria on Vancouver Island’s southern tip. When we plan to be out of town for just a couple of postal mail delivery days, as we were in this case, I simply lock the mailbox near our front door instead of asking a neighbor to retrieve our mail. Like you, we get little postal mail—especially excluding the unwanted advertising—so the box has plenty of capacity for a few days’ worth.

Was Our Mail Stolen?

When we returned, on the ground near our mailbox I found an envelope from Service Canada. The envelope was torn open and the contents were missing. (Service Canada handles employment insurance, the Canada Pension Plan [the rough equivalent of the U.S.’s Social Security], and the Old Age Security program, among other things.)

The mailbox was still locked. However, I was concerned because 1) it seemed very unlikely to me that the Service Canada envelope was just a loose piece of trash that happened to blow near our front door, and 2) I’d noted in the past that sometimes our mail carrier does not push mail completely down through the mailbox’s slot and fully into the box when it’s locked.

We have no current business with Service Canada. I phoned the organization to ask if it had recently sent postal mail either to me or Ms. Money Counselor. Very oddly (I thought), the Service Canada representative told me that she had no way of determining that.

Given all of the above, I decided the prudent thing to do was to assume that a Service Canada letter to one of us had been stolen, and that the addressee’s Social Insurance Number may have been on the letter. That of course could have ugly identity theft consequences.

I Work to Head Off Identify Theft

I took these steps immediately:

  • I phoned the local RCMP and made a report. This generated a RCMP file number, which could prove important to have down the road if identity theft indeed happens.
  • I initiated establishment of online Service Canada accounts for both myself and Ms. Money Counselor. Once this is done (I’m waiting for receipt of a postal mailed access code), I’m hoping I’ll have visibility on any activity Service Canada has initiated with either one of us. And opening the account precludes a crook from doing so in either of our names.
  • I phoned Canada Post to ask if our postal mail had been redirected (a step identity thieves sometimes take to leverage their theft), and I explained the circumstances. Thankfully our mail had not been redirected, and Canada Post recorded an alert in its system.
  • I sent paperwork to both of Canada’s two major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion. I asked that a fraud prevention alert be added to each of our credit files, and that our Social Insurance Numbers be protected in the provider’s database. Supposedly this means that if, for example, someone were to try to take out a loan or open a credit card account in my name, the creditor will contact me first to confirm that I’m in fact the applicant. (I would have initiated a “credit freeze,” but apparently that tool is not available in Canada.)
  • After the fraud prevention alerts were set up with both credit bureaus, I requested credit reports for each of us from each bureau.
  • I reviewed and tightened in some cases the alerts I have set up on all of our financial accounts, both through the financial institution and through Google Alerts. These alerts will, for example, send me a text when my credit card is charged or someone makes a change to my account information (such as telephone number or email address).

Besides boosting a bit my usual vigilance over our financial accounts, I can’t think of anything else I should do. Any ideas?

Why I’m Disappointed with TransUnion

With the exception of the experience I’m about to describe with TransUnion (and the mind boggling information that no one at Service Canada can tell me whether the organization recently sent me a piece of postal mail), the process went smoothly and fairly easily. It may all have been unnecessary, but not much work to head off the potentially huge inconvenience of being an identity theft victim.

My Not-So-Happy Experience with TransUnion

I went to the website to request a free credit report. First I clicked on the homepage link “Credit Report.”

TransUnion website

Next I clicked on “Get Your Credit Report Now!” the only option for proceeding.

TransUnion website

Then, logically, a screen comes up requesting personal information—the start of necessary information gathering to allow TransUnion to confirm my identity and provide the correct report. I completed the fields and was about to proceed, but wait….  At the last moment I spotted a small box on the screen’s right sidebar, circled in red below:

TransUnion website


C’mon TransUnion. Absolutely nothing about a costly “credit monitoring” product had been disclosed up to this point. This is a sneaky sales tactic, to say the least, deceptive and underhanded at worst. Because I wasn’t about to waste money on generally useless, so-called credit monitoring, I left the site. (I learned later that TransUnion would automatically include a credit report with its written confirmation of the fraud prevention alert. I could find no way on its website to order just a free credit report.)

I didn’t proceed past the final screen I mention above, but obviously details about a form of payment would be requested at some point in the process. This would certainly be a red flag that I was not obtaining a free credit report alone, but it must fool—or “persuade”—some to sign up for TransUnion’s credit monitoring, or the company wouldn’t sell this way.

All I can say is:

  1. TransUnion: CLEAN UP YOUR ACT!
  2. Caveat Emptor!

What’s your reaction to TransUnion’s credit monitoring sales tactic?

Related Posts

Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *