Identity thieves hit Canadians more often than Americans

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Experts unsure of reason, especially since Canadians tend to be more cautious

Michael McCullough

Canadians report a higher incidence of identity theft even though they are far more cautious than Americans about sharing their personal information, according to a new survey.

Ten per cent of respondents to an EDS Canada Inc. poll in January said they had been victims of identity theft or had experienced a cyber crime resulting from unauthorized access to personal information.

Yet Canadians were far more likely than Americans to demand that companies go the extra mile to safeguard information, a similar EDS poll taken in September in the U.S found. For example, 80 per cent of Canadians said an organization should validate at least three pieces of identification before issuing a client a new password to access an account, compared to just 13 per cent of Americans.

“How come Canadians get ripped off more often? We just can’t explain it right now,” said Michel Brazeau, business leader for EDS in eastern Canada.

He noted Canadian consumers and organizations — including governments — are ahead of their American counterparts at e-banking, applying for services and otherwise sharing information online. As a result, information may be more valuable in Canada, and therefore more attractive to criminals.

Also, “in the U.S. there is a whole lot more in-home marketing,” Brazeau said. Such activity has been severely restricted in Canada since new federal and provincial privacy laws came into effect between 2002 and 2004. Americans are more familiar and comfortable with legitimate telephone and Internet solicitation.

An overwhelming majority of Canadians, 86 per cent, preferred to have their access denied rather than compromise the security of their accounts if an organization cannot verify their identity.

Respondents rated banks and credit card companies the best at safeguarding their identity. Retailers and travel agencies and consumer electronics companies were perceived as the least trustworthy with personal information.

Still, consumers give away their information too freely. Although Canadians are very protective of their social insurance numbers, 61 per cent will give out their postal code when asked; 54 per cent, their address; 12 per cent, their account numbers; and 10 per cent, their passwords.

“I’m surprised there are that many people who will hand out their passwords,” Brazeau said, cautioning against disclosing information even when you call an institution directly,. “Be wary of what you share, even if you have a relationship with the organization.”

When you’re not sure who is on the other end, seeking to “update your account information,” don’t feel you have to be polite.

“The best advice I can give to people is to hang up,” Brazeau said. “If it’s really your bank, they’ll call back.”

The EDS survey, conducted by Internet between Jan. 13 and. 17 by Ipsos-Reid, drew responses from 1,735 Canadians.

The results are considered accurate within 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


– Never provide any personal information in response to an unsolicited request.

– Always ask or look for contact information on unsolicited requests. If you believe the request may be illegitimate, try contacting the company yourself.

– Review your account statements regularly to ensure all transactions are in order.

– Check your credit report regularly to ensure no new credit accounts have been opened in your name. This can be done through the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) or through a third party such as Fair Isaac (

– Do not use information that can be used to steal your identity — such as SINs, account numbers, birth dates, names, e-mail addresses or telephone numbers — as passwords or account numbers.

– Limit the amount of personal information you divulge over the phone or to websites, and be sure you know how this information will be used.

– Review the privacy policies or statements posted on websites of the companies with which you do business to ensure you understand how the information you provide will be used and shared with other organizations.

– Be sure you are applying patches and updates to your personal computer’s operating system on a regular basis. If using a Windows operating system, be sure to use the automatic updates feature.

– Ensure you have current anti-virus and firewall software installed on your PC and enable the automatic update feature. Run virus scans regularly and remove any spyware found.

– If you are the victim of identity theft, go to the Identity Theft website set up by the Canadian Privacy Commissioner at There you will find a list of resolution steps to take if your identity has been stolen.

Source: EDS Canada

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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