Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

October 27, 2009 11:06 ET

Tough New Laws Targeting Identity Theft Receives Royal Assent

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 27, 2009) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Mr. Daniel Petit, M.P. for Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, today welcomed the granting of Royal Assent on Bill S-4, a legislation that will provide police and justice officials with important new tools in the fight against identity theft, a fast-growing crime throughout North America.

"This legislation is another achievement in implementing our Government's tackling-crime agenda," said Minister Nicholson. "It will better address identity theft and provide police with the tools they need to help stop these crimes before they are committed."

This act will create three new "core" Criminal Code offences targeting the early stages of identity-related crime, all subject to 5-year maximum prison sentences:

- Obtaining and possessing identity information with the intent to use the information deceptively, dishonestly or fraudulently in the commission of a crime;

- Trafficking in identity information, an offence that targets those who transfer or sell information to another person with knowledge of, or recklessness as to, the possible criminal use of the information; and,

- Unlawfully possessing or trafficking in government-issued identity documents that contain information of another person.

A new power will be added permitting the court to order, as part of a sentence, that an offender be required to pay restitution to a victim of identity theft or identity fraud for costs associated with their efforts to rehabilitate their identity, e.g., the cost of replacement cards, documents and correcting their credit history. This provision will complement existing provisions which permit restitution to be ordered for actual economic or other property losses.

"Canadians must be assured that their identities and personal information are being protected from illegal use," said Mr. Petit. "I am pleased that the legislation that our Government has put forward to target identity theft has now received Royal Assent."

Because it poses a low risk of detection and a chance of high financial reward, organized criminals have become involved in identity theft. The Government of Canada has taken additional action against organized crime, including the passing of legislation to make murders committed in connection with gangs and organized crime automatically murders in the first degree.The Government has also proposed legislation to crack down on auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime, both of which are associated with organized crime.

The Government's actions to tackle fraud include several bills currently before Parliament. Last week, the Government introduced legislation which would require mandatory jail time for fraud over $1 million. The Government has also introduced legislation to eliminate conditional sentences, including house arrest, for those convicted of serious property crimes, including fraud, and a bill to ensure law enforcement and national security agencies have the tools they need to fight crime and terrorism in today's high-tech environment.

Internet: www.canada.justice.gc.ca (Version francaise disponible)

BACKGROUNDER:

Identity Theft

The term "identity theft" can refer to the preliminary steps of collecting, possessing and trafficking in identity information for the purpose of eventual use in existing crimes such as personation, fraud or misuse of debit card or credit card data. Identity theft in this sense is different from "identity fraud", i.e., the subsequent actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person in connection with various crimes. Identity theft takes place in advance of and in preparation for identity fraud.

Identity theft is a serious criminal activity that is becoming increasingly lucrative and easily crosses borders. In 2007, more than 10,000 Canadian victims reported losses of more than $6 million to PhoneBusters, the Canadian anti-fraud call centre. Between January 1, 2008 and October 31, 2008, more than 9000 Canadian victims of identity theft reported losses of more than $8 million to PhoneBusters. The Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus has estimated that identity theft may cost Canadian consumers, banks and credit card firms, stores and other businesses more than $2 billion annually.

Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct)

The actual fraudulent and deceptive uses of other people's identities are already subject to strict criminal prohibitions. Upon coming into force, Bill S-4 will create three new "core" identity theft offences targeting the early stages of identity-related crime, all subject to 5-year maximum prison sentences:

- Obtaining and possessing identity information with the intent to use the information deceptively, dishonestly or fraudulently in the commission of a crime;

- Trafficking in identity information, an offence that targets those who transfer or sell information to another person with knowledge of or recklessness as to the possible criminal use of the information; and,

- Unlawfully possessing or trafficking in government-issued identity documents that contain information of another person.

Additional amendments include:

- Complementing existing mail offences with two new offences of fraudulently redirecting or causing redirection of a person's mail and possessing a counterfeit Canada Post mail key;

- Creating complementary forgery offences such as trafficking in forged documents, or possessing forged documents with the intent to use them; and

- Clarifying that certain acts in relation to PIN numbers and the possession of skimming devices (used to extract and copy debit card information) are prohibited.

Moreover, a new power will also be added permitting the court to order, as part of a sentence, that an offender be required to pay restitution to a victim of identity theft or identity fraud for costs associated with their efforts to rehabilitate their identity, e.g., the cost of replacement cards, documents and correcting their credit history. This provision will complement existing provisions which permit restitution to be ordered for actual economic or other property losses.

Useful Tips on Identity Theft for Canadians

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: http://www.priv.gc.ca/fs-fi/index_e.cfm

Royal Canadian Mounted Police: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/scams-fraudes/id-theft-vol-eng.htm

PhoneBusters: http://www.phonebusters.com/english/recognizeit_identitythe.html

Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs: http://consumer.ic.gc.ca/epic/site/oca-bc.nsf/en/h_ca02226e.html

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Pamela Stephens
    Press Secretary
    613-992-4621
    or
    Department of Justice Canada
    Media Relations
    613-957-4207