Consumers Receive Additional Protection Against Identity Theft



    Ontario Becomes First Canadian Jurisdiction With Credit Alert Legislation

    QUEEN'S PARK, Jan. 23 /CNW/ - In an ongoing effort to combat identity
theft in Ontario, the McGuinty government has given consumers the ability to
place an alert on their personal credit file, Government and Consumer Services
Minister Ted McMeekin said today.
    Identity theft includes the use of someone else's personal information,
without his or her knowledge or consent, to commit a crime such as fraud,
theft or forgery. As of January 1, 2008, Ontario's new credit alert
requirements ensure that lenders who receive information from a consumer's
file will be told if there is an alert in place. Once informed of the alert,
they must take action to verify the identity of the person before proceeding
with transactions.
    "Ontarians want improved protection against identity theft, and our
government continues to deliver on that demand," said McMeekin, noting that
these amendments to Ontario's Consumer Reporting Act are the first of their
kind in Canada. "Consumers throughout this province are now able to take an
extra step to protect their identity against fraudsters."
    Ontarians can direct a credit reporting agency to place a credit alert on
their files for a nominal charge. The Consumer Protection Branch of the
Ministry of Government and Consumer Services will continue to monitor
reporting agencies' compliance with all aspects of the Consumer Reporting Act.
    Anyone with questions regarding this or other consumer protection
initiatives should contact the province's toll free consumer hotline at
1-800-889-9768 (in Toronto at 416-326-8800), or visit the Ontario Consumer
Protection website at ontario.ca/consumerprotection.

    The 2008 Smart Consumer Calendar contains helpful tips to protect
consumers against identity theft, and can be downloaded from the ministry's
website at www.mgs.gov.on.ca, or ordered free of charge at
www.serviceontario.ca/publications. Orders can also be made by calling toll
free at 1-800-668-9938, and in the Toronto area at 416-326-5300.

    
                           Disponible en français

                              www.mgs.gov.on.ca


    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                   CONSUMER PROTECTION AND IDENTITY THEFT

    BACKGROUND:
    -----------
    -   Identity theft includes the use of someone else's personal
        information, without his or her knowledge or consent, to commit a
        crime, such as fraud, theft or forgery.

    -   According to a March 2006 Ipsos Reid study, 25 per cent of Canadian
        adults have either been victims of identity theft or know somebody
        who has been a victim. A Fall 2005 study conducted by Ipsos-Reid
        found that 77 per cent of Canadians were concerned about becoming a
        victim of identity theft in the future.

    -   PhoneBusters reports that in 2006, 3,353 Ontarians were victims of
        identity theft and experienced losses of $7.6 million.

    -   Ontario has advocated for changes to the criminal code to criminalize
        identity theft. On January 31, 2007, former Minister Gerry Phillips
        wrote to Justice Minister Nicholson in support of federal actions
        being considered to amend the Criminal Code in order to better tackle
        identity theft.

    Amendments to the Consumer Reporting Act:
    -----------------------------------------
    -   As of January 1, 2008, consumers may require consumer reporting
        agencies to include and "alert" in their file. Once the alert is in
        place, it must be given by the agency to everyone who accesses
        information from the consumer's file.

    -   A lender or other person receiving the alert is required to take
        reasonable steps to verify the identity of the person claiming to be
        the consumer before proceeding with most types of transactions.

    -   Credit reporting agencies cannot charge a fee in excess of $5 dollars
        for including the alert on the consumer's file, and may not charge
        subsequent fees for amending, removing or renewing the alert. Credit
        alerts expire six years after inclusion in the consumer's file unless
        removed earlier at the request of the consumer.

    -   Contravention of the Consumer Reporting Act can result in a fine of
        up to $25,000 for individuals and/or imprisonment for up to one year
        and a fine of up to $100,000 for corporations. The Criminal Code of
        Canada also contains revisions for dealing with identity theft.

    -   Amendments to the Consumer Reporting Act were part of the Ministry of
        Government Services Consumer Protection and Service Modernization
        Act, 2006, which received Royal Assent on December 20, 2006. The
        amendments came into effect on January 1, 2008.

    -   Ontario's actions are based on provincial and national consultations
        with stakeholders undertaken in partnership with other provinces and
        the federal government through the Consumer Measures Committee.

    -   Ontario also introduced reforms to address real estate fraud, which
        often results from identity theft, brought into effect under the
        Consumer Protection and Services Modernization Act. The changes will:

        - Ensure that property cannot be lost as a result of a fraudulently
          registered document

        - Enhance the government's ability to revoke or suspend access to the
          electronic land registration system

        - Expedite compensation for victims of real estate fraud by make the
          Land Titles Assurance Fund more transparent and efficient

        - Increase penalties for offences related to real estate fraud from
          $1,000 to $50,000

    Steps taken to help Ontario consumers protect their identity:
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    1.  Beginning in 2004, the government launched the Keep Your Identity
        Safe campaign, providing Ontarians with useful information to help
        them protect their identity from birth, and take action should they
        become a victim of identity theft.

    2.  For individuals whose identity documents have been stolen, the
        province introduced an Identity Theft Statement to notify credit
        issuers and financial institutions nationwide of the loss.

    3.  The Business Identity Theft Kit was produced by the government to
        help Ontario businesses better understand how to protect their
        customers with new information tools designed to reduce the risk of
        identity theft.

    4.  The Consumer Protection Branch of the Ministry of Government and
        Consumer Services has taken several steps to help inform and protect
        consumers. The Smart Consumer Calendar contains tips and advice to
        help consumers in areas ranging from identity theft, mortgage fraud
        and telemarketing fraud, to phoney charities, home renovations and
        buying a vehicle or vehicle insurance. A suite of brochures is also
        available in print and online to heighten consumer awareness about
        their rights and protections under Ontario's consumer legislation.

    Strategies launched in Ontario to combat identity theft:
    --------------------------------------------------------
    1.  The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services is supporting
        academic research on identity theft through the Ontario Research
        Network in Electronic Commerce to better understand the nature and
        scope of the identity theft problem.

    2.  Ontario has supported reforms to federal privacy law that would
        require private sector organizations to notify individuals if their
        personal information has been compromised.

    3.  On November 21, 2007, federal Justice Minister Nicholson introduced
        Bill C-27 to criminalize identity theft. Bill C-27 includes
        provisions that would make it an offence to make, possess, transfer,
        sell, or offer for sale an identity document that relates to another
        person, if there is no lawful excuse for doing so. The Bill also
        includes a provision that would make it an offence to impersonate any
        person, living or dead, with fraudulent intent.

    Disponible en français

                              www.mgs.gov.on.ca
    





For further information:

For further information: Media contacts: Greg Dennis, Minister's Office,
Office: (416) 327-3072, Cell: (647) 281-4403; Ciaran Ganley, Communications
Branch, Office: (416) 325-8659

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