Montreal

Former Desjardins president falls victim to identity theft after data breach

A former employee stole data from about 40 per cent of Desjardins's clients — including the man who was the president of the federation of credit unions from 1987 to 2000.

Claude Béland shocked to find company he had never done business with had his social insurance number

Claude Béland was president of Desjardins Group from 1987 to 2000. (Radio-Canada)

As millions of Quebecers worry about a data breach at Desjardins Group, the former president of Canada's biggest federation of credit unions says that he himself is a victim of identify theft.

Claude Béland, president of Desjardins from 1987 to 2000, told Radio-Canada that three companies wrote to him saying that he owed them money.

When Béland contacted the companies to tell them they had made a mistake, they informed him that his social insurance number was on file — despite the fact that he had never done business with them.

"They had all my data," Béland said.

Desjardins announced last month that an employee with "ill intention" collected data from some 2.7 million people and 173,000 businesses

That data included client social insurance numbers, names, birth dates, email addresses, information about the banking products they use and their spending habits.

Desjardins said the breach did not include clients' personal identification numbers and passwords.

The breach affected more than 40 per cent of Desjardins's customers.

Credit monitoring offered

After Béland made his discovery, he contacted the credit agency, Equifax. He said they told him they would not be able to take on his file until next month.

Three weeks after announcing the breach, just 11 per cent of affected customers have signed up for the credit monitoring the bank is providing customers, without charge, through Equifax.

Customers have also reported having trouble getting service from the agency in French.

Desjardins said Friday that 93 per cent of affected customers have been alerted by mail that their data was part of the breach.

Customers are now also able sign up for credit monitoring through Desjardins's web portal, AccèsD.

Desjardins says those who sign up for credit monitoring through the web portal will have immediate protection.

Béland said the Desjardins of today is a far cry from the way it was when the credit union's clients would deal directly with tellers.

"They are no longer members. They are customers," said Béland.

As the credit union grew, its culture changed, he said.

"I am very surprised," he said of the breach. "[I am] more worried than disappointed."

An investigation into the breach was launched by Laval police last December. Quebec provincial police joined the investigation last month.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada

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