Ontario helps businesses battle identity theft

The McGuinty government is taking action to help businesses protect themselves from identity theft, Consumer and Business Services Minister Jim Watson announced Monday.

“Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in North America,” said Watson. “By understanding how to protect the identity of their customers, businesses can help prevent identity theft. Simply put, smart businesses are good for consumers.”

The provincial initiative, launched to coincide with Fraud Awareness Month, includes an identity theft kit and checklist for businesses.

Business owners can link to the kit and checklist from the ServiceOnatrio Web site at www.serviceontario.ca. It provides strategic options for data collection; security and storage; data disposal and a response plan to manage a breach in security.

The ServiceOntario Web site says that “Timing is critical” and recommends a response that investigates the problem internally and immediately informs those affected.

Canadian credit-reporting agencies receive more than 1,800 identity theft complaints each month. According to a U.S. report, as much as 70 per cent of all identity theft begins with theft of personal information from a company by an employee.

“Businesses now have useful tips and tools on how to handle and safeguard consumer information,” said Watson. “Consumers will have greater confidence that their personal and financial information is protected.”

Federal, provincial and territorial consumer ministries jointly developed the kit and checklist in consultation with banks, business associations, privacy commissioners, credit-reporting agencies, credit card companies, law enforcement officials and consumer groups.

The provincial initiative rollout, and business community participation, will not be tracked by any level of government.

”The identity theft kit and checklist are part of a public awareness campaign. We will not be forcing compliance,” said Julie Rosenberg, spokesperson for the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services.

The new measures hope to reduce the risk of identity theft.

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