A Calgary woman got the surprise of her life this holiday season, after fraud artists allegedly used her name and credit history to buy themselves a luxury Land Rover in Kelowna, B.C.
Alana Higgins only found out about the vehicle and the hefty loan attached when she received a letter from the Bank of Nova Scotia saying she was in arrears. However, she ignored the letter at first because she has no accounts with Scotiabank.
"You get so much junk mail nowadays, a lot of times you get letters with credit card numbers from other banks," explained Higgins. "I just kind of pushed it to the side to look at it later on."
After reading the letter more carefully, Higgins visited a Scotiabank branch to try and clear what she thought was just a mistake at first.
Alberta address, B.C. licence
According to Higgins, bank staff told her the loan was issued at a Land Rover dealership, for more than $156,000. The alleged fraud artists provided what appeared to be a tax return, without a social insurance number, for a credit check.
"I had some tears … but I'm more mad that someone got away with such a large sum of money in my name," said Higgins.
They also used a British Columbia driver's licence as identification — despite the loan being issued to an Alberta address.
Higgins said her friends and family are baffled that someone was able to drive such an expensive vehicle off the Land Rover Kelowna lot in this situation.
"They don't understand how somebody could walk off a lot with a luxury vehicle with hardly any identification that should have raised flags during security checks," said Higgins.
Car dealership and bank won't explain on the record
CBC News contacted the president of the Wyant Group, the company that owns Land Rover Kelowna.
Vaughn Wyant refused to go on the record when asked to explain what fell through the cracks in this case.
In a statement emailed to CBC News, Scotiabank said they have strong internal controls and processes in place for loans such as this one, but declined to explain what documentation is required for a high-value loan and what could have gone wrong at Land Rover Kelowna.
Higgins has reported the fraud to the Calgary Police Service. She said police told her the vehicle's identification number had not been registered anywhere in Canada as of early December.
At the time of publication, the six-figure loan had been referred to a collections agency. Higgins has been working with the bank and credit bureau, and she believes she will not be liable for the loan or missing vehicle.
Stay vigilant around personal data
Experts say identity fraud can occur with information that is often readily available.
"A lot of people assume that identity theft requires something like your social insurance number or the pin to your debit or credit card," said Jessica Gunson, intake manager with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
But Gunson points out that information as basic as your name, address and date of birth including the year can be used to compromise your identity.
The Anti-Fraud Centre also says it's important to watch your mail and credit file for potential signs of trouble, such as letters indicating an application for credit was made with your name or address that you may not remember applying for.
"We really need to treat our personal information as though it were cash because it is valuable," said Gunson.
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