Nova Scotia

Identity-theft victim says thieves have it easy and federal rules must change

A Dartmouth, N.S., man who had his identity stolen and bank accounts and credit cards opened in his name says Canada Post and the federal government need to make changes to make it more difficult for criminals to impersonate others.

'I don't know how much simpler we can make it for these people,' cautions victim

Mark said most of the banks weren't really forthcoming about the identification used by the imposter, although one told him the man had a social insurance card with Mark's name and number on it. (CBC)

A Dartmouth, N.S., man who had his identity stolen and bank accounts and credit cards opened in his name says Canada Post and the federal government need to make changes to make it more difficult for criminals to impersonate others.

"I don't know how much simpler we can make it for these people. I think there are a lot of holes we need to fill," said the man whom CBC News will call Mark.

CBC News is not disclosing his real name because the person who stole his identity knows his address and Mark is concerned about his safety.

Mark was first alerted to the problem in June when he received a card in the mail from Canada Post, addressed to him and another man he didn't know, confirming his mail would be redirected.

Not wanting this to happen, Mark called Canada Post. A Canada Post employee said the imposter had indicated they lived at Mark's address and was acting on his behalf in having Mark's mail forwarded.

The Canada Post employee told Mark that based on her experience, it looked as if someone one was trying to take his mail and send it to a post office box for criminal intent.

Bank accounts opened

At that point, he was advised to contact both Equifax and TransUnion, the major credit-reporting agencies in Canada, which he did.

"When I spoke to Equifax, they gave me information that pointed to someone going to banks in the area and opening up bank accounts and applying for credit cards," said Mark.

At that point, he took time off work to go to all the major banks, explain his situation and ask whether any accounts had been opened in his name.

This is the mail-forwarding message from Canada Post that Mark received the day before his mail was to be redirected to someone who stole his identity. (Yvonne Colbert/CBC)

The fraudster went to four different banks to open accounts and apply for credit cards, he said. Three of the banks were in the metro Halifax area and one was in Truro. Since Mark stopped the mail forwarding, the mail the imposter was expecting to be redirected has been going to Mark instead.

"I have a debit card and a Visa card from one bank and I have a notice from another bank thanking me for the business," said Mark, adding one bank told him they were defrauded of $1,000.

Mark said most of the banks weren't really forthcoming about the identification used by the imposter, although one told him the man had a social insurance card with Mark's name and number on it. The man used an immigration document as the second piece of required identification. Neither of these pieces of identification had a photo.

Different banks, different requirements

Each bank has its own criteria for opening accounts and applying for credit cards.

Scotiabank, where the fraudster did not open an account, requires one piece of photo identification before a new customer can open a bank account, but other banks, like TD, do not. Only TD and Scotiabank responded to CBC News requests for information about their policies around opening accounts.

"Customers can open a chequing and savings account and obtain a credit card without photo ID. However, the customer must meet the ID requirements set out by our regulators," TD spokesperson Julie Bellissimo told CBC News in an email.

She said TD follows the guidelines for opening new accounts or obtaining a credit card that have been put in place by the Proceeds of Crime, Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Regulations Act, adding anyone applying for a credit card must agree to a credit check.

In an email, an RBC spokesperson said a government-issued photo ID is required to open an account or credit card and it "acted quickly" when it learned of Mark's matter. 

"After a thorough internal investigation, we are satisfied that proper procedures were followed," Trish Vardy said.

'A recipe for disaster'

Mark said many things need to change to make it more difficult for criminals to steal a person's identity, including Canada Post's notification system.

"I was lucky we jumped on this when we did," he said. "I received the card from Canada Post in the mail on a Monday. The very next day was when they were going to redirect the mail, so it was a pretty quick thing."

He said he checks his mail every day, but if he'd been on vacation the redirection would have taken place without his knowledge.

Mark also questions Canada Post's policy of allowing one person to redirect another person's mail. According to its website, Canada Post requires someone to provide government-issued photo identification and a letter of authorization from the person whose mail is being redirected.

"Redirecting someone else's mail just because someone says they live there seems to me like a recipe for disaster right there," said Mark.

Mark said if someone is having their mail forwarded, that person should be required to go to the post office and show identification. Alternatively, he suggested a second step where Canada Post holds the mail in a secure private box until the person shows proper identification to pick it up.

Canada Post acknowledged CBC's request for comment, however it did not respond by the deadline. 

SIN used fraudulently

Mark also went to Service Canada, which provides social insurance cards, to let them know his had been compromised. He said he was disappointed by their lack of interest.

A spokesperson with Employment and Service Development Canada told CBC News you can request a new SIN, but "you have to prove that your SIN was used fraudulently."

However, getting a new social insurance number will not necessarily protect you from fraud or identity theft.

"If someone else uses your old SIN as identification and the business does not check the person's identity with the credit bureau, credit lenders may still ask you to pay the imposter's debts," says the Employment and Service Development Canada website.

"Each time, you will have to prove that you were not involved in the fraud."

Take time to look at junk mail

Mark is also urging people to closely check each piece of mail, even the ones that appear to be junk.

"This card really didn't stand out. It didn't appear to be anything important," said Mark.

Mark doesn't know how his personal information was obtained by the man who is impersonating him. He does not know the person responsible, only that he is an adult male.

Mark has reported the problems to the Halifax Regional Police and is planning on reporting the incidents to RCMP.

What can people do?

Shredding all personal documents and bills is one way to thwart identity thieves. You can also purchase credit-monitoring services, but these cost approximately $16 per month. The companies that offer monitoring will alert you each time a new account is opened in your name.


Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at