Credit bureau potential fraud 'alerts' fail to protect man from identity theft
Published Tuesday, January 8, 2019 6:00AM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 8, 2019 7:17PM PST
Identity theft has become a huge problem and major data breaches haven’t helped. The MP who chaired the House of Commons committee on the Equifax breach says credit bureaus aren’t doing enough to protect consumers.
A North Vancouver man who had his wallet stolen last year recently became the victim of identity theft, even though he had placed alerts on his credit files with Equifax and TransUnion.
“I’ve had a Bell account opened in my name that shouldn’t have been opened. I’ve had a Fido account opened in my name that shouldn’t have been opened,” said Robert Darch.
In November, someone posing as Darch was able to purchase cellphones at a WirelessWave location in Metropolis at Metrotown.
“I warned the credit bureaus back in June of 2018 that I had my identity compromised. There are notes on those files. Creditors are supposed to verify at my home phone number if this is me. That wasn’t done,” Darch pointed out.
Darch showed CTV News the alert that was placed on his TransUnion file and it was clear that he needed to be personally contacted before any credit was extended. He says TransUnion charged him $6 for the alert. He also put an alert on his Equifax file. Equifax says it doesn't charge for those.
However, the systems that the credit bureaus had set up failed to protect him.
“To me just as a consumer it’s troubling that we don’t regulate credit bureaus in any way. That we’re just supposed to trust what they do is going to be in our best interests,” said Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, who chaired the House of Commons committee investigating the 2017 Equifax breach that exposed Canadian’s personal data.
Following that breach, U.S. regulators ordered credit bureaus to offer consumers the ability to lock their credit files, free of charge, in order to prevent identity thieves from taking out credit in their names.
That law went into effect last September and now American consumers can easily lock their files online and temporarily lift the lock when they want to access credit.
But two of those very same companies operating in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion, do not offer the same protections to Canadians.
"So Canadians are very vulnerable to identity theft and identity fraud right now," said class action lawyer Steven Roxborough of the Merchant Law Group.
Roxborough’s firm is suing Equifax over its data breach and says there needs to be more government oversight.
"The federal government needs to step in and they need to regulate. They need to have something in place so consumers are protected. Freeze. You should be able to freeze the accounts," Roxborough added.
And Zimmer agrees.
"I absolutely think it's something we need to look at as part of an overall picture of how Canadians manage their own data," he said.
Because not only is Darch a victim, so is the man who unknowingly purchased one of the stolen phones taken out in Darch’s name. That phone has now been blacklisted – meaning it can’t be used.
“You are completely vulnerable, completely exposed. There is nothing anyone will do for you,” Ley said.
“It’s been a total nightmare,” added Darch.