Ottawa Journal (April 20 – April 24, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P.
A few years ago, an American bank ran a series of ads promoting their identity theft solutions. It was hard not to chuckle as you listened to a high-pitched female voice come out of the mouth of a grumpy looking, beer-drinking man, gushing about the shopping spree she’d gone on after emptying his savings account.
Of course, the chuckling stopped abruptly when you realized it could happen to you. While identity theft may seem less damaging than something like murder or gun crime, the reality is that it can be devastating for families and businesses.
Less than twenty years ago, the concept of cyber-crime was virtually unheard of. Now governments around the world have legal frameworks in place to capture and prosecute offenders. In these times of global difficulty, we must focus on protecting Canada’s economic security, but we must also ensure the protection of Canadians’ personal security as well.
Eye-catching promotional ads aside, make no mistake; the criminals who commit identity fraud are not young hackers. By and large these are criminals involved in sophisticated operations directed by organized crime. The money that they make from their illegal activity is frequently tied to other major crimes such as trafficking in drugs and guns. The result of identity theft is that it can have a very harmful impact on communities like ours.
Forging and misusing personal information has been a crime in Canada for many years. However, more and more Canadians are now using the internet for shopping and personal banking. This has made gaining access to personal information even easier. In fact, the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus estimates that identity theft costs families and businesses a combined total of $2 billion every year.
Collecting, possessing, and selling identity information are all examples of steps that criminal organizations take prior to actually committing identity fraud. Yet these actions are not covered in the Criminal code, giving criminals free reign to gather Canadian’s personal information without fear of consequence.
We can all take steps to protect ourselves against identity theft. For example, making sure you hide your PIN, shredding your personal information, as well as routinely checking your bank and credit card statements for strange activity are all ways to help protect yourself. However, it is also vitally important that Canada’s laws keep up with the times.
Recently, our Federal Government re-introduced legislation to make it harder for criminal organizations to commit identity fraud. By updating the Criminal Code, many of the actions that criminals take prior to committing fraud will now be illegal.
Under our Government’s plan, obtaining or possessing identity information with the intent to commit fraud will be a crime under the Criminal Code. Furthermore, buying and selling identity information that is used for fraud would also be illegal, as well as unlawfully possessing and buying or selling government-issued documents. All of these offences would be punishable by a maximum of five years in jail.
After years of inaction from previous governments, our Government is delivering the tools that our police and prosecutors need to protect Canadians from identity theft.