November 14, 2007 by Rachel Chow
The move to criminalize identity theft comes amid pressing calls to modernize current privacy laws that have be made irrelevant by rapidly evolving technologies. Identity theft, that is the unauthorized gathering, possessing of or dealing in identity information, is not caught by the existing Criminal Code. While several activities integral to the unauthorized use of personal information, such as fraud, theft and impersonation are illegal under the Criminal Code, there remains a lacunae in the law which identity thieves have been quick to exploit. Moreover, it is inherently difficult to prove intent, a necessary element to prosecute an identity thief under the Criminal Code.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s plan to criminalize identity theft is a welcome, albeit long overdue one. Identity theft has emerged as the crime of the information age, facilitating widespread criminal activity, even across borders. By criminalizing the gathering and trafficking in personal data for purposes of fraud, law enforcement agencies will finally have the teeth to intervene and clamp down on criminals before actual fraud is committed. Such a move will mitigate the financial and intangible losses caused to identity theft victims. It is estimated that identity theft costs at least $2.5 billion a year to Canadian consumers, banks and other businesses. (1)