Commissioner Work Applauds Changes to Criminal Code Regarding Identity

November 26, 2007

Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner is encouraged that the Federal Government is moving to make changes to the Criminal Code regarding identity theft. Ottawa tabled a bill last week that would give authorities the power to arrest, charge and convict people who intend to sell personal information as part of an identity theft scheme.

Frank Work says the move is a good step. “Identity theft is a growing industry in Canada, and it is becoming a top of mind issue for Canadians. These amendments will close some important gaps in convicting people who are gathering personal information for the purposes of identity theft”.

In the meantime, the Commissioner is reminding businesses and consumers about their roles and responsibilities. “We are entering the busiest time of year for shopping and it’s vital for all of us to be diligent with our personal information”, said Work.

The Commissioner has the following tips for businesses:

  • Don’t collect information if you don’t need it.
  • Make sure you shred records that contain customer or employee information when it is no longer needed.
  • Access to sensitive information should only be granted to those employees who need to know.
  • Make sure receipts and other information are properly disposed of and not tossed away in a recycle bin or dumpster.
  • Make sure that credit card numbers are properly obscured.
  • Point of sales terminals should be visible to consumers: credit and debit cards should not disappear under the counter to be swiped.

Tips for consumers include:

  • Ask why information is being requested and how it will be used, if it will be shared and how it is stored.
  • Carry a minimum amount of identification and credit cards.
  • Buy a shredder and use it. Shred receipts, sale records, credit applications and other personal information. Don’t just throw it away.
  • Clear your mailbox as soon as you can each day. If bills or statements are not arriving on time, follow up.
  • Never give personal information over the phone, through the mail or over the internet, unless you are dealing with a trusted source.
  • Don’t give out your Social Insurance Number unless absolutely necessary. In fact, you should not carry you SIN card in your wallet or purse. It is a key component in identify theft.

The Commissioner says even with tough new laws, it is up to you to protect your personal information so you don’t give criminals the opportunity.