Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 1:39 am Post subject: Tories take aim at identity thieves
Tories take aim at identity thieves
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
October 3, 2007 at 1:13 AM EDT
The Conservative government will introduce legislation this fall aimed at catching identity thieves before they attack the bank accounts of Canadians.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said new amendments to the Criminal Code will punish identity theft, regardless of whether the stolen information is ever used for identity fraud.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Nicholson said stolen identity crimes cost Canadian individuals and businesses $2-billion a year.
“I think it's a growing problem and we've got to get on it now because the technology people use to obtain information will only get better,” he said. “We've got to get something on the books.”
The minister said the bill will close a gap in the law. Current offences are focused solely on the misuse of stolen identities through fraud, impersonation or forgery. Mr. Nicholson said his bill will extend the law to include the collecting, possessing and trafficking of identity information.
Identity thieves can use stolen information such as credit card data, PIN numbers and addresses to steal money, make unauthorized purchases or obtain other forms of identification under false pretenses.
The RCMP website urges Canadians to take precautions such as shredding personal mail and never giving personal information over the phone unless they initiated the call.
Because Parliament is prorogued until the Oct. 16 Throne Speech, the exact wording of the legislation was not released yesterday. As a result, few details were available.
Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart welcomed the government's announcement but said there are many other steps needed to address the problem.
“This is only part of the issue and I don't even know that it's the biggest part,” she said.
She said Canadian laws need to crack down on spam e-mails, some of which are disguised to look like e-mails from Canadian banks demanding personal data.
“We're the only the G8 [country] that doesn't have anti-spam legislation. We're a haven for spammers,” she said.
Last month, Ms. Stoddart and her Alberta counterpart criticized the parent company of Winners and HomeSense for putting the personal information of millions of customers at risk. The company acknowledged this year that the information of more than 45 million customers was breached in 2005.
John Lawford, legal counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said the overcollecting of personal consumer information is the main problem that should be addressed by lawmakers.
He said that inspired by the profits that can be made by selling customer lists, companies are overly eager to gather information, but fail to properly protect the data. He wants the law changed so that companies are forced to tell the public when their databases have been breached.
Nonetheless, Mr. Lawford said, he welcomes the new law as a positive first step and predicted it will trigger some fascinating lobbying in Parliament.
“I know the criminal lawyers will freak out about this,” Mr. Lawford said.
From church socials to music fan clubs, there is no shortage of groups that gather and share personal information for benign purposes. Mr. Lawford said wording will be required that keeps them from running afoul of the new law.
Is Globe & Mail implying that Tories are desperate now?
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