Banks, government need to do more to help fraud victims

Supported By:

Net Patrol International Inc.  Data Investigation and Forensic Services
Bankruptcy and Insolvency Trustees

We need a concerted effort between financial and government institutions to improve fraud-awareness training and boost transparency.

March was Fraud Prevention Month and a recent Equifax Canada survey showed 97 per cent of Canadians are concerned about fraud and identity theft. They should be because unless something changes they’ll be on their own.

I say this because when my SIN and personal details were stolen and used to obtain a credit card with a $15,000 limit, I had assumed government agencies, or the bank that issued the fraudulent card, would help me through the process. They didn’t. But with better fraud-awareness training and updated website information they could have.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which estimates only about 5 per cent of cases are reported, says victims lost a record $530 million in 2022, up 40 per cent from 2021. This means more people like you and me will become victims.

I was lucky. I found the new credit card package in my mailbox before the criminals did so I didn’t lose money. I lost time, points on my credit score and confidence in financial institutions and the government. In fact, only the police provided reliable aid.

In my case, employees at the bank that issued the fraudulent credit card told me to phone their fraud department, the police, and Equifax and TransUnion. But no one could explain the process or give me a complete list of organizations to contact.

A recent KPMG survey showed three-quarters of small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada experienced fraud in the past year, yet the websites of most public and private institutions focus solely on explaining fraud or ways to prevent it. A simple fix would be for institutions to update their websites to include easy-to-find, accurate and complete instructions for victims. That includes Service Canada.

I contacted Service Canada at least seven times, either waiting hours in line or on the phone, to launch an investigation. Even when I had all documents listed on the website, employees gave me conflicting instructions and sent me away to get more information. When I finally found a savvy employee who filed the documents, she said I would hear back in a week. That was almost three months ago and I’ve only just been contacted. It shouldn’t be this difficult.

While I acknowledge many groups are working to come to grips with this tsunami of fraud, the resources of an institution are greater than those of one individual. What we need is a concerted effort between financial and government institutions to improve fraud-awareness training and boost transparency around the process of gathering and filing documents so victims are supported rather than brushed off. This would better serve both employees and victims.

When it comes to identity theft and fraud, the onus is already on the victim to gather and present the paperwork to clear our names. It’s time for organizations — who we hire and trust to safeguard our money or who we fund through our taxes — to make it easier for us to understand exactly what we need to do to repair the damage and prevent further victimization.

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