Commissioner Cracks Down on Businesses Whose Practices Assist Identity Thieves

November 26, 2004

Following an Edmonton Police Service investigation where two people were charged in a credit check investigation the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner plans to crack down on businesses whose practices aid identity thieves.

The police found information consisting of sensitive personal financial information of individuals, such as cell phone contracts, credit information held by a debt collection agency, bank account information, and return of goods slips with detailed credit card information. In the hands of unauthorized persons, personal information of this kind can be used to steal identities and open bank accounts, make credit card charges, rent vehicles, and redirect mail, among other things.

“Businesses are making it too easy for identity thieves,” says Commissioner Frank Work. “It is a priority of this office to stop businesses from engaging in practices that put Albertans’ personal information at risk,” adds the Commissioner.

Organizations under Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act and Section 34 in particular, are obligated to safeguard personal information especially when disposing of or destroying information.

The Commissioner reminds organizations of the risk that results from insecure disposal and destruction of personal information. Among other things, organizations should:

  • shred or permanently destroy paper records that reveal personal information of customers or employees
  • limit the personal information collected in the first place
  • limit access to who needs to know
  • pay attention to the disposal of electronic information – hard drives must be completely wiped, and electronic storage media must be securely destroyed
  • right now go and look in your garbage and recycle bins and examine what you are handing to identity thieves.

Additional information about how individuals can protect themselves from identity theft is available on the Commissioner’s website and the website of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.