Protections over Equifax hack unfair to Canadians
Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Monday, September 25, 2017 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, September 25, 2017 4:23PM PDT
At least 100,000 Canadians may be potential victims of identity theft, thanks to the recent security breach at Equifax. And even if you're not directly affected by the hack, you may be considering protecting yourself by freezing your credit.
Well, think again. Canadian consumers don’t have the same protections as Americans, and can’t put a credit freeze on their report.
The difference in protections has many people, including B.C. resident Neil Halldorson, demanding greater control over their private information and who can access it.
“I saw 143 million records are compromised and I thought this has got to be one of the biggest breaches of all time,” he said, “It’s to the point now where I think we’re all vulnerable.”
Halldorson wants to freeze his credit reports. Doing so would limit who can access his personal information and potentially block fraudsters.
"It's something that a lot of people have been taking advantage of in the wake of the Equifax breach," said Matt Schulz with Creditcards.com.
But Canada's two credit bureaus, Equifax and Transunion, only allow you only to get alerts about changes to your credit file, and that will cost you. The identity alert and lost or stolen alert each cost $5 plus applicable tax.
Fraud alerts are free but you have to prove you've been a victim of fraud. Neither option will block credit inquiries.
"It's not efficient. It sounds like a good thing perhaps but often it takes a long time, a number of days and even weeks for that alert to actually be received by the person," said Bruce Cran with the Consumer Association of Canada, “Consumers need to take back control. We want the freeze thing they’ve got in the States.”
“It's my data. It's my information and if I don't want anybody looking at it, I should have that right to do it," complained Halldorson.
The four credit bureaus in the U.S. only started offering credit freezes after several states starting passing laws, and the Equifax breach has now given Canadian lawmakers something to think about.
"They're exactly the same companies. I've absolutely no idea why they don't extend that one up here," said Cran.
“I do think that there's a decent chance that all of the headlines and all of the consumer outrage about this Equifax breach could lead to some changes being seen in Canada," Schulz said.
Canada's privacy commissioner has now launched an investigation into the Equifax breach, but unlike the Federal Trade Commission in the States, it has no clout to hand down heavy fines if it's determined Equifax failed to do what it could to protect consumers.
A successful class action may be all that's needed to jolt the credit bureaus in Canada into mirroring the control Americans have in freezing their credit.
Class action lawsuits have already been filed in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and BC. For more information click here.
In the meantime it may require a consumer revolt to lobby politicians to change the laws to give consumers better protection and control over their private information.