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Canada's Criminal Code updated to criminalize early stage identity theft

By CO Staff @canadaone |

The passing of Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, means that lawmakers can now target early stages of identity theft crimes.

While the Act already had strict criminal prohibitions against actual fraud, the new legislation will help lawmakers prevent identity theft before it actually happens, through the addition of three new "core" Criminal Code offenses.

Offense #1: It is now a criminal offense to obtain and possess identity information with the intent to use the information deceptively, dishonestly or fraudulently in the commission of a crime.

Offense #2: Trafficking identity information is also illegal, making it a criminal offense to transfer or sell information to another person without considering the possible criminal uses of that information.

Offense #3: It is a criminal offense to unlawfully possess or traffick in government-issued identity documents that contain another person's information.

Equifax Canada, Canada's largest credit reporting agency applauds the legislation, noting that consumers reported over 40,000 cases of identity theft/fraud in the past two years.

According to Justice Canada, in 2007, more than 10,000 Canadian victims reported losses of more than $6 million to PhoneBusters, the Canadian anti-fraud call centre.

That number jumped in 2008, with more than 9000 Canadian victims of identity theft reported losses of more than $8 million in the first 10 months of the year.

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.

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