Canada’s New Government to Tackle Identity Theft
MONTREAL, October 2, 2007 – Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, together with the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, today announced that Canada's New Government has developed a strategy to help combat identity theft, which is a serious criminal activity that has become more lucrative than ever before.
“Canada's New Government understands that new and rapidly-evolving technologies have made identity theft a widespread criminal activity, especially involving organized crime. This growing issue is harming Canada's families, seniors and businesses, and we are committed to addressing it,” said Minister Nicholson. “By introducing Criminal Code amendments, our government will be giving police the tools to better protect Canadians by stopping identity theft activity before the damage is done.”
When Parliament resumes, Canada's New Government will introduce new legislation proposing Criminal Code amendments that will permit police to intervene at an earlier stage of criminal operations, before identity fraud or other crimes which actually cause financial or other harms are attempted or committed.
The Criminal Code currently covers offences involving the misuse of another person's identity information (such as personation and forgery), which are generally referred to as identity fraud. But the preparatory steps of collecting, possessing and trafficking in identity information are generally not captured by existing offences.
“Canadians are entitled to have their identities and personal information protected to the highest degree possible,” said Minister Blackburn. “That is why our Government will move quickly when Parliament returns to introduce legislation that targets identity theft.”
Canadians are concerned about becoming victims of identity theft, which has been identified as one of the fastest growing problems in North America and one that easily crosses borders. In 2006, almost 8000 victims reported losses of $16 million to PhoneBusters, the Canadian Anti-fraud Call Centre. Many more cases are thought to go unreported. The Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus has estimated that identity theft may cost Canadian consumers, banks and credit card firms, stores and other businesses more than $2 billion annually.
Distinction between Identity Theft and Identity Fraud
While the term “identity theft” has no universal definition, it typically refers to the preliminary steps of collecting, possessing, and trafficking in identity information for the purpose of eventual use in crimes such as personation, fraud or misuse of debit card or credit card data. Identity theft can be contrasted with “identity fraud”, i.e., the subsequent actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person in connection with various crimes. Identity theft therefore takes place in advance of and in preparation for identity fraud, and constitutes the criminal use of information.
New Model of Crime
Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies have seen a growing trend in both countries towards greater use of identity theft as a means of furthering or facilitating other types of crime, from fraud to organized criminal activity to terrorism.
Also, instead of one person committing an offence, there may be a complex operation involving a number of different people. No one person may be individually responsible for committing an offence, but each may contribute a small part to the larger criminal operation. New legislation on identity theft will give police and prosecutors additional tools to address such complex criminal activities.
Scale of the problem
One incident of identity fraud may have many victims, from the person whose identity is stolen and whose credit rating and reputation may be damaged, to the commercial and financial institutions that may cover losses resulting from use of stolen information, to the Canadian taxpayer, who may be harmed when false identities are used to obtain government documents or benefits.
It is difficult to determine an accurate number of victims of identity theft or identity fraud because they are not always reported, and when they are, they may be reported to a number of different authorities or organizations. However, a November 2006 Ipsos-Reid survey indicated that 73 per cent of Canadians are concerned about becoming victims of identity theft, and 28 per cent say they or someone they know has already been a victim of identity theft.
Useful Tips on Identity Theft for Canadians
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: http://www.privcom.gc.ca/keyIssues/ki-qc/mc-ki-idt_e.asp
Royal Canadian Mounted Police: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/scams/identity_theft_e.htm
Canada 's Office of Consumer Affairs: http://consumer.ic.gc.ca/epic/site/oca-bc.nsf/en/h_ca02226e.html