Equifax Canada Warns Parliamentary Committee about Identity-Related Crimes

- Synthetic Identities hold Chilling Consequences -

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 27, 2014) - Equifax Canada today sent a delegation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics to warn parliamentarians about the rise and evolution of "identity-related" crimes in particular flagging the need to stem the tide of criminals creating synthetic identities.

"We estimate today that synthetic or fictitious identity fraud schemes potentially cost Canadians $1-billion dollars a year in losses," testified John Russo, Chief Privacy Officer of Equifax Canada. "These are real numbers based on carefully calculated cost analysis. At first glance, this may seem like a faceless, victimless crime, but the consequences are chilling. Fake names on real credit cards, real driver licenses and real passports pose a real threat to national, if not our global security."

Synthetic or fictitious identity crime occurs when personal information is either stolen - where components of that information are used to create a non-existent person - or information about an identity is simply made up. The perpetrator often does this by taking personal information, such as the Social Insurance Number of someone who is deceased, or not yet part of the credit-granting system, to build a non-existent identity. While appearing to be a credible individual, it's often organized crime that is responsible funneling money into other activities within and outside the country.

Russo also addressed the substantial increase in data breaches at various institutions ranging from retailers, healthcare providers, financial institutions, and even government. Between 1998 and 2003, Canada experienced a 500% growth in identity theft reports where applications were submitted and damage incurred to a legitimate Canadian consumer. Those numbers are on the rise again.

"Canadian consumers and businesses should be concerned, and know what steps they can take to prevent future financial losses and other hardships associated with ID theft," said Carol Gray, President of Equifax Canada. "Recent high-profile data breaches should be a wake-up call. Awareness and vigilance are the best protections against identity theft."

Total reported Canadian identity theft victims increased 14% in 2013

The number of Canadian identity theft victims increased 14 percent in 2013, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Government privacy breaches alone doubled in 2013 from 109 to 209 incidents, putting personally identifiable information and records of millions of Canadian potentially at risk of identity theft and identity fraud.

However, when a breach occurs, Canada currently has limited requirements for organizations to proactively notify individuals or the appropriate regulatory bodies of a data breach, with most provinces relying on voluntary notification to anyone whose information was compromised.

"Without strong, mandatory protections in place to ensure you're notified of data breaches, Canadians should take proactive steps to help better protect themselves," Gray added.

Equifax Canada suggests, at a minimum, to:

• Always secure your personal information - both hard copies and digital

• Never carry your Social Insurance Number card in your purse or wallet unless absolutely necessary

• Use strong, unique passwords for your online activities, especially for banking and financial accounts

• Check your credit report regularly; if fraud occurs, your credit report could be one of the first places where evidence of identity theft or compromise appears and you can request a free credit report from Equifax by visiting www.equifax.ca

• File your tax return promptly; federal income tax fraud is a growing problem and the longer you wait to file, the more time a criminal has to file a fraudulent return in your name

• Learn more about identity theft through sources offering helpful information at no cost, including the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's Identity Theft website and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

• Consider signing up for a credit monitoring and identity protection product, offered by companies like Equifax.

Also, if a company notifies you that your information has been or may have been compromised in a data breach, act quickly. If the company offers you free credit monitoring, accept it and if it is not offered, ask for it. Consider signing up for credit monitoring on your own if the breached company will not provide it for you. Consider requesting new accounts (and closing existing accounts) with the breached company.
Additional steps should include:

• Obtaining a copy of your credit report via www.equifax.ca and reviewing all information to ensure accuracy. Look for new accounts you don't recognize or applications for new credit you did not make. Dispute incorrect information with the creditor reporting the questionable information. Ask for a "fraud alert" to be placed on your credit file; this will alert lenders they need to verify your identify for any new credit request made in your name.

• Carefully review all your credit, bank account and billing statements and keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Contact the service provider immediately if you find any unauthorized charges.

• Stay vigilant as identity theft can occur up to a year - or longer - following a data breach. Continue to monitor your credit report and bank statements, and watch for common identity theft signs, such as failure to receive monthly bills or other mail, being denied credit or offered credit at a high interest rate, and calls or letters from debt collectors for accounts you did not open.

What actions should an organization take once a data breach is realized? Click here for more information: http://www.equifaxprotect.com/resources/breach-incidence-response.

About Equifax

Equifax is a global leader in consumer, commercial and workforce information solutions, providing businesses of all sizes and consumers with information they can trust. We organize and assimilate data on more than 500 million consumers and 81 million businesses worldwide, and use advanced analytics and proprietary technology to create and deliver customized insights that enrich both the performance of businesses and the lives of consumers.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Equifax operates or have investments in 19 countries and is a member of the Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500® Index. Its common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol EFX.

For more information, please visit www.equifax.ca.

Contact Information:

Andrew Findlater
SELECT Public Relations
(416) 659-1197

Tom Carroll
Media Relations
Equifax Canada
(416) 227-5290