For most Canadians identity theft is a concern however, unless you have personally been a victim of identity theft, most are unaware how serious the consequences can be and how challenging they are to rectify.
In 2010 identity theft in Canada impacted just over 2 individuals per 100,000, however in 2020 that rate has increased significantly to 20 individuals per 100,000 people.
In terms of actual numbers, since the COVID pandemic, reported identity theft incidents have increased to over 17,000 in 2020 and, while the data is not yet in for 2021, it is widely expected to have doubled.
One of the reasons for this significant increase in identity thefts relates to CERB (the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit).
CERB was a program that had very few safeguards against identity theft, and worse, made it a profitable activity among criminals and other unsavoury individuals.
Currently there are Canadians shocked to be told they must repay CERB benefits they never received, as they discover they have been a victim of identity fraud.
For those who have been victimized it is a very challenging situation to rectify as many institutions operate under a reverse onus environment where a victim of identity theft must prove they were not in any way responsible for the situation in question.
Many in frustration turn to the media and no doubt you have likely heard about identity theft as a result of media stories on this subject.
In my view governments at all levels are not doing much to combat this growing problem.
I would like to share the following idea with citizens for feedback.
If you are a user of “Google” online, you will know that if your account is accessed, or there is an attempt to access your account from a new location, you will receive a verification text or email asking you to confirm the login or attempted login details.
This is often called 'two step verification'.
Google of course is not the only online company using two or multi step verification, many other social media platforms have done this, as have a growing number of banks and credit unions, to verify one's identity when accessing online services.
Even logging into your account remotely with CRA now involved a 2-step verification process.
Unfortunately, when it comes to your credit rating, there is no credit rating organization that I could identify that uses a verification process or alert as Google does when someone accesses your credit file.
Giving how far technology has come in terms of accessibility and scale, I don't think it's unreasonable that someone could sign up so that every time there is an inquiry on their credit rating, that they should be contacted by the credit rating agency in question by a text or email and informed who is making the inquiry.
The intent of this idea is to help cut down on identity theft and as consumers give more awareness over who is accessing your credit rating records.
I am sure the credit agencies in question would argue that their credit files are exactly that- their files on your credit score - and that any new requirement would make their system and those who rely on them slower.
However as these credit scores impact the ability for citizens to get a loan or mortgage, or in some cases rent a property, and making sure that credit scores are being used correctly with companies that you have decided to transact with and not nefariously by fraudsters is a legitimate counterpoint.
The costs of such an alert system have come down and it's in everyone's interests to minimize fraud.
I have done some research on this idea through the Library of Parliament and unfortunately due to how some financial services, like credit bureau's, are regulated provincially throughout Canada, through consumer protection laws, it is not something that could be addressed through a private member's bill otherwise I would consider tabling such a bill.
My question this week.
Would you support credit rating agencies advising you when there is an inquiry on your credit rating file?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.