What the Commissioner Wants for Christmas

December 12, 2005

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner conducted several investigations this year involving businesses that failed to look after customers’ information, putting those customers at risk for identity theft.

“The prospect of consumer fraud as a result of poor information practices is deeply troubling,” said Commissioner Work. “The risk of identity theft is a problem all year round, but particularly during the holiday season.”

Businesses in Alberta are subject to the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) which requires them to take reasonable care in their handling of customer and employee personal information. At this time of year, the Commissioner urges businesses to be especially careful in handling their customers’ information:

  • Don’t collect the information if you do not need it.
  • Shred paper records that contain information of customers or employees.
  • Limit access to personal information to those who need to know it.
    • Look in garbage and recycle bins to ensure you’re not handing fraudsters your customers’ personal information.
    • Use technology that obscures credit card numbers on printed receipts.

Consumers also play an important role in preventing identity theft. Consumers should:

  • Ask how personal information will be used and if it will be shared.
  • Minimize the identification and numbers of credit cards carried.
    • Tear or shred receipts, copies of credit applications, and credit offers received in the mail – don’t just toss them in the garbage or recycling.
    • Only provide a Social Insurance Number when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.
    • Remove mail from mailboxes as soon as possible after delivery. Follow up with creditors if bills don’t arrive on time.
    • Refuse to give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the internet unless you have initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with.

Shoppers: Enjoy the holiday season. Businesses: Give your customers the protection they are entitled to!