SIN cards headed for scrap heap

The federal government is phasing out Social Insurance Number cards starting in 2014 to save money and cut down on the risk of them being used in identity theft.
Service Canada will stop handing out Social Insurance Number cards in March 2014, a move that will save the federal government $1.5 million per year. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Social Insurance Number cards are going to be a thing of the past starting in 2014 in an effort to cut costs and to reduce the risk of identity theft.

The measures to phase out the plastic cards are contained in the federal government's massive budget implementation bill and were discussed as part of a Senate committee's study of the bill on Tuesday morning.

An official from Service Canada said cancelling the cards will save the government about $1.5 million annually. Peter Boyd said Canadians will be advised of their SIN via letter, adding that because the plastic cards have no security features, it is "not prudent" to use them for identification.

Social insurance numbers are required by Canadians to work and to access government programs and services. There is no fee to get a SIN card but it costs $10 to replace one.

"It costs an awful lot to produce. People still will be getting a social insurance number, they just won't be getting the card," Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said Tuesday in an interview with Evan Solomon on CBC's Power & Politics. "One of the things we found was it's a piece that's used frequently for identity theft."

"You won't have to worry about losing your card anymore," said Finley.

The government currently advises people not to carry their SIN card because of the risk of it getting stolen or lost.

Finley's office said Canadians should always keep their SIN private "as it can be a source of identity theft or fraud if not kept safe."

"Along with better protecting Canadians' personal information, this responsible approach will also save taxpayers' hard-earned money by not producing physical cards and replacements," Finley's spokeswoman Alyson Queen said in an email.