British Columbia

ID thieves plague B.C. doctor

A retired B.C. surgeon says he has spent the past year trying to undo the damage done by identity thieves who until recently had managed to stay a step ahead of him.

Retired surgeon says confidential credit files have repeatedly been breached

Fraud victim

10 years ago
Duration 3:04
B.C. man thinks thieves hacked into a credit check bureau when his identity was stolen

A Burnaby, B.C., man who spent the past year besieged by identity thieves says RCMP have linked his case to a major arrest.

Paul Wright says criminals have repeatedly managed to change personal information on his TransUnion Credit Bureau profile.

One of the addresses placed on his file was the site of a massive police bust last month that led to the arrests of two people along with the seizure of 15 computer hard drives containing at least 44,000 identities and 220,000 credit card numbers.

Wright, a retired orthopedic surgeon, said he wants to know how criminals have managed to access his TransUnion information despite fraud flags placed on his file.

'It makes you feel very vulnerable.'—ID theft victim Dr. Paul Wright

"I can't go in and change my information via telephone. I can't phone them up and say 'Here's who I am, could you change my information?" he said. "I have to send them a registered letter with two pieces of identification. I have to have a number of bills. They have to verify that I am me. But somehow, somewhere, there's been breaches into my information repeatedly and significantly to change this information."

Wright said he's not sure when or how his identity was compromised but suspects it could have happened a number of ways. He said he's had mail go missing; he lost a cheque; and in October 2009, Desjardins Visa Card Services wrote to inform him about a burglary and theft of documents from the company's Burnaby offices.

He also said a woman from the Bank of Montreal called him in June 2011 to warn him that someone was trying to open an account in his name.

File repeatedly breached

Wright said he contacted TransUnion to place a fraud warning on his file. But in spite of the precaution, Wright said his file has been repeatedly breached.

"Many, many things happened in the ensuing months, unbeknownst to me, because once the bad guys get in there and change your information, they don't contact you because you no longer exist at your address," he said.

"Any contacts and checks would come from other people."

Wright said he's asked TransUnion to add more security, but to no avail. He believes credit bureaus should be more accountable.

"They're just not secure institutions for the power and the information that they have."

Wright estimates that he's spent 400 hours during the last year dealing with fallout from multiple attempts to start accounts in his name and to change his credit information. He believes credit bureaus should be more accountable to customers.

Last month, police raided one of the addresses placed on Wright's file after following a tip from a separate investigation.

According to information sworn to obtain a search warrant, staff at PICS Smartcard contacted Burnaby RCMP when a customer dropped off a high-end card printer for repair. Employees found a crushed plastic card with a Scotiabank logo inside.

Arrests made

Police allegedly linked the printer to Anthony Pavo Stulec, 29. According to the search warrant information, Stulec's name turned up 104 times on police computers both as a person of interest and a suspect in several identity theft investigations.

Stulec was convicted of illegally possessing or trafficking in government documents in June 2010.

RCMP arrested Stulec and Stephanie Jean Smyth, 21, last month. Both face 19 counts each including trafficking forged credit cards, possessing stolen property and fraudulent use of credit card data.

Police allegedly also found thousands of stolen hotel receipts along with a Canada Post bag and jacket.

Wright said he finds the connection to his own nightmare alarming.

"I can tell you it's very anxiety-provoking for your family to realize suddenly that somebody has this much information," he says. "It makes you feel very vulnerable."

In a written statement, TransUnion said it has been in contact with Wright, but the company refuses to discuss individual cases publicly.