Canada's Identity Theft Pandemic
Identity theft is on the rise in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Canada. Many Canadians are not currently aware of the heightened financial risks they face on a daily basis. Identity theft can ruin a person’s financial future, at least for the short term, and can take months, or even years to get cleared up. When I was younger, and applied for my Social Insurance Number, Identity Theft was not something you heard about; our SIN Cards, we were told, were a valid secondary piece of identification, to be carried with us, and produced as needed. Since then, times have changed; no longer are we to provide our SIN as ID, indeed, the Federal Government has decided that it is no longer valid as such, in response to this rapidly growing issue. The threat is real, and is something that needs to be acknowledged and realized by Canadians, and Foreign Workers alike.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/) for the period of 1 January, thru 1 July 2011, the total cost of Identity Theft in Canada is a staggering $7,019,164. In the US, by comparison, the losses due to Identity Theft are a mere $81,844. For the entire 2010 year, the total amount of reported losses was $9,575,313, to the US figure of only $79,810. What makes this comparison particularly disconcerting is the fact that, while US citizens are still required to provide their Social Security Numbers for a wide variety of interactions, such as applying for a job, a cell phone, or any number of things, here in Canada we are no longer obligated to do so. Indeed, it is ILLEGAL for a business to refuse you service due to denying them access to one’s SIN; they may ask, but if denied, they must leave it at that. So why, then, do private businesses continue to demand a SIN for so many mundane aspects of daily life?
One need only pop by their local Service Canada Centre, the branch of the Federal Government that issues Social Insurance Numbers, and ask the staff about who they should and should not provide with their SIN. Indeed, you may even be able to hear some horror stories, people going in to apply for a job, and three months later getting phone calls from collection agencies about the three hundred mobile phones they have not paid the bills for, which they know nothing about. Others find out that they “took out a line of credit” for tens of thousands of dollars, bought jewellery and electronics, and then stopped making payments, when in actual fact they did nothing more than throw out a bank statement without shredding it.
Here in Alberta, a large number of Private Businesses, operating on behalf of the Provincial government demand Social Insurance Numbers for a variety of services for which no SIN should be required. Moreover, as they are private businesses, they have no entitlement to demand your SIN. A few examples are the Alberta Registry Office, a privately owned and operated series of companies, or personally owned businesses, with a mandate to issue information and documentation on relating to provincial services, who demand SIN cards be shown as ID to apply for things like a Drivers Licence, or a community or job resource centre, providing computers and assistance for job seekers; these too are often privately owned. The federal government issues the SIN as a taxation number, and it should, as such, only be used for that purpose. Many of them claim that they are obligated to provide this information to the Federal Government, however this is not the case. Protect your personal information, it is YOUR financial future on the line, and YOU will be held accountable.