12 days of Christmas identity protection

In keeping with the Christmas season Alberta’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) has unveiled the 12 Points for Christmas aimed at consumers and merchants.

The 12 points are geared towards the protection of personal information and reducing the risk of identity theft.

At the holiday retail season OIPC tends to receive more complaints about business retailers violating or mishandling personal information, according to Elizabeth Denham, director of the Personal Information Protection Act, OIPC.

“Last year — right around this time — the Edmonton Police Service found bags and bags of credit card receipts and return slips in a dumpster,” she said.

In addition to being improperly disposed the records actually found their way into the hands of a fraud ring and OIPC was investigating three major retail companies for improper disposal, according to Denham.

Retailers investigated include Digital Communications Group Inc. (a cell phone company) and Linens ‘N Things.

Denham said that at this time of year people tend to be busy, distracted and stressed.

“That’s why we released (the 12 points).We wanted consumers to take better care as well as reminding retailers what they’re responsibilities are under the act.”

The 12 points are as follows:

Six points for consumers:

1. Ask how personal information (e.g. name, address, phone number) will be used. Determine whether it will be shared with others.

2. Minimize the amount of identification and credit cards carried.

3. Tear/shred receipts, copies of credit applications, other documentation containing personal information, don’t just throw it in the garbage

4. Do not provide a Social Insurance Number unless absolutely necessary. Ask to use other forms of identification if possible

5. Remove mail from mailboxes as soon as possible after delivery. Follow up with creditors if bills don’t arrive on time

6. Refuse to give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you know who you’re communicating with

Six points for merchants:

7. Make protection of personal information a company priority; designate someone in your business to coordinate privacy policies and practices

8. Make your staff aware of privacy and security obligations; all employees must follow good practices in their everyday transactions with customers

9. Protect personal information in your custody – keep records under lock and key, make sure credit card slips are out of reach to the public, not beside the till. Information on your computers should be password protected with adequate safeguards

10. Reduce the amount of customer information you collect; if you don’t need certain information for a transaction, don’t collect it. For example, Social Insurance Numbers are rarely needed for retail transactions

11. Shred or securely dispose of all customer information once it is no longer needed. Make sure copies of receipts and return slips are safe

12. Obscure credit card numbers on customer receipts. Thieves are looking for receipts that contain all the information needed to misuse a credit card; name, credit card number and expiry date.

For further information visit the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s Web site at: www.oipc.ab.ca