Privacy guardians join forces against fraud

    OTTAWA, March 1 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's federal, provincial and
territorial privacy guardians are joining together in their respective roles
during Fraud Prevention Month to call for renewed efforts in the fight against
frauds such as identity theft.
    "Identity theft has been called the crime of the 21st Century. More needs
to be done to protect Canadians and stop the explosion of this costly fraud,"
the privacy officials said in a joint declaration.
    "The theft of someone's identity may be the ultimate invasion of
privacy," they said. "Tackling the problem is the shared responsibility of
individuals, businesses and governments."
    Identity thieves steal personal information such as a Social Insurance
Number, birth date or driver's licence to impersonate someone else and
fraudulently apply for credit cards, loans and government documents such as
passports. Last year, the anti-fraud group PhoneBusters received calls from
almost 7,800 people reporting they were victims of identity theft. Losses were
more than $16 million. PhoneBusters says those likely represent only five per
cent of the actual numbers.
    The Privacy Commissioner of Canada and her provincial and territorial
counterparts agreed during a recent meeting that action against identity fraud
must be taken on a number of fronts. Law enforcement agencies, governments and
all organizations that collect and use personal information must all
contribute to the search for identity theft solutions.
    Tougher criminal and other types of sanctions should be considered to
better protect personal information. It is equally important to address the
problem of "pretexting" - impersonating someone in order to gain access to
their personal information.
    Measures are also needed to halt the dramatic proliferation of spam - an
invasion of privacy because it involves the collection and use of personal
information, specifically e-mail addresses, without consent. Spam is proving
difficult to deal with effectively - a fact made plain by the growing volume
of spam reaching individual mailboxes. The international non-profit group
Spamhaus lists Canada as No. 6 in the top ten worst countries for originating
spam. Much more than a mere nuisance, spam has financial consequences for our
economy, affects productivity and undermines confidence in electronic
commerce. It is often used by ID thieves to launch "phishing" attacks, where
e-mails that look like they come from legitimate organizations are used to
trick people into revealing personal information.
    To date, however, the federal government has not implemented any of the
recommendations of its Task Force on Spam. Canada is now the only G-8 country
without anti-spam legislation. Federal, provincial and territorial officials
responsible for privacy hope ministers will see Fraud Prevention Month as an
opportunity to take strong action on spam.
    The federal, provincial and territorial privacy officials also said that
recent massive data breaches in Canada and the U.S. are an urgent wake-up call
for businesses and other organizations to ensure they have the strongest
possible privacy safeguards in place to protect personal information,
including credit card numbers. This is what is demanded by privacy laws.
    Businesses, which are collecting more and more personal information, must
recognize how extremely valuable such data is to fraud artists and adopt
appropriately stringent security measures, such as encrypting stored data and
obscuring complete credit card numbers on printed receipts, the commissioners
and ombudsmen said.
    The recent data breaches have prompted the federal Privacy Commissioner
of Canada to call for amendments to the private-sector privacy law which she
enforces, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
(PIPEDA), to make it mandatory for organizations to notify people of data
breaches involving their personal information. This would allow those
individuals to take steps to minimize the risk of falling victim to identity
theft and provide an incentive for businesses to take security more seriously.
    All federal, provincial and territorial privacy officials also reminded
individuals across the country that they have a role to play in fighting
identity theft. People should better protect their own personal information,
for example, by providing only the minimum amount of personal information
necessary to organizations and shredding documents containing sensitive data
such as credit card numbers. They also need to get into the habit of
monitoring for signs their identity has been stolen -- carefully checking
credit card and bank statements, and also asking credit bureaus for a copy of
their credit report every year.
    Go to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's web site,

    To contact federal, provincial or territorial officials for comment:

    Office of Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada
    Phone: Valerie Lawton  (613) 943-5982

    Office of Frank Work, Information and Privacy Commissioner
    Phone: (780) 422-6860

    British Columbia
    Office of David Loukidelis, Information and Privacy Commissioner
    Phone: (250) 387-5629

    Office of Irene A. Hamilton, Ombudsman
    Phone: (204) 982-9130

    New Brunswick
    Office of Bernard Richard, Ombudsman
    Phone: (506) 453-2789

    Newfoundland and Labrador
    Office of Philip J. Wall, Information and Privacy Commissioner
    Phone: (709) 729-6309

    Northwest Territories and Nunavut
    Office of Elaine Keenan-Bengts, Information and Privacy Commissioner
    Phone: (867) 669-0976

    Nova Scotia
    Office of Dulcie McCallum, Freedom of Information and Protection of
    Privacy Review Officer Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy
    Review Office
    Phone: (902) 424-4684

    Office of Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner
    Phone: (416) 326-3333

    Prince Edward Island
    Office of Karen A. Rose, Information and Privacy Commissioner
    Phone: (902) 368-4099

    Office of Jacques Saint-Laurent, President, Commission d'accès à
    Phone: (418) 528-7741

    Office of R. Gary Dickson, Information and Privacy Commissioner
    Phone: (306) 787-8350

    Office of Hank Moorlag, Ombudsman and Information and Privacy
    Phone: (867) 667-8468

For further information:

For further information: See above

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