Identity theft is the process of taking someone’s personal information with the intention of using it for criminal purposes. Identity fraud occurs when an imposter gains access to your personal information and uses it to commit fraud in your name.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada defines an individual’s identity as “the sum of all the characteristics that make up who an individual is, such as their name, birthday, where they live or other information.” See: Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, “Identity & Privacy”. [Identity and Privacy]. Both identity theft and identity fraud are serious crimes.  Sadly, no age group is immune as both the young and old are susceptible to falling victims of these crimes. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warns on its website that identity fraud is on the rise and anyone can fall victim to it. Fraudsters are now known to target unsuspecting victims through social media (where most of the victims are youth) and resort to old scams in targeting the older group. Even the recent world of cryptocurrency has not escaped the long talons of identity fraud. See: CBC News Article on Social Engineering.

It is estimated that from January to December 2017, fraudsters caused Canadians a loss of more than $405 million. See: Competition Bureau Canada “Fraud Facts”. The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada estimates that Canadians lost $21.2M to identity theft in 2018, which signified an increase over the losses recorded in 2017. See: Chartered Professional Accountants Canada: “4 things you need to know about identity fraud right now” [CPA ID Theft].

Every person in Canada can reasonably expect to have a right to privacy and this privacy right is what is violated when a person is a victim of identity theft or fraud. Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks. See: United Nations: “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Even though the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms(Charter) does not expressly mention the right to privacy, the courts have taken the position that the right to privacy is subsumed within the other rights protected by the Charter. See: Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, “Know your Rights – The Charter and You”. 

This report seeks to provide education on: laws regulating enforcement of rights upon identity theft, the broad themes of identity theft and fraud, ways to protect oneself from falling victim to identity theft, and information on steps a victim of these crimes is required to take.