The Twelve Points for Christmas

December 21, 2006

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner would like to remind consumers and retailers that the holiday season is a time to be especially careful regarding the protection of personal information. Our Office has put together a list of twelve points; six for retailers, six for consumers, to assist Albertans in the protection of personal information – and the subsequent reduced risk of becoming a potential victim of identity theft.

Six points for consumers:

  1. Ask how personal information (eg. name, address, phone number) will be used. Determine whether it will be shared with others.
  2. Minimize the amount of identification and credit cards carried.
  3. Tear/shred receipts, copies of credit applications, other documentation containing personal information, don’t just throw it in the garbage.
  4. Do not provide a Social Insurance Number unless absolutely necessary. Ask to use other forms of identification if possible.
  5. Remove mail from mailboxes as soon as possible after delivery.  Follow up with creditors if bills don’t arrive on time.
  6. Refuse to give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the internet unless you have initiated the contact or you know who you’re communicating with.

Six points for merchants:

  1. Make protection of personal information a company priority; designate someone in your business to coordinate privacy policies and practices.
  2. Make your staff aware of privacy and security obligations; all employees must follow good practices in their everyday transactions with customers.
  3. Protect personal information in your custody – keep records under lock and key, make sure credit card slips are out of reach to the public, not beside the till. Information on your computers should be password protected with adequate safeguards.
  4. Reduce the amount of customer information you collect; if you don’t need certain information for a transaction, don’t collect it.  For example, Social Insurance Numbers are rarely needed for retail transactions.
  5. Shred or securely dispose of all customer information once it is no longer needed. Make sure copies of receipts and return slips are safe.
  6. Obscure credit card numbers on customer receipts.  Thieves are looking for receipts that contain all the information needed to misuse a credit card; name, credit card number and expiry date.

Private sector businesses and organizations operating in Alberta are subject to the Personal Information Protection Act. The Act regulates how organizations handle personal information. The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta oversees compliance with the law.