Student loan privacy breach "sucks"

Amy Woolvett amywoolvett@thecoastguard.ca
Published on February 5, 2013
Brittenay Taylor is one of the thousands of people who have been affected after a storage device containing personal information went missing.

By Amy Woolvett

 

“To put it plainly …it sucks …it absolutely sucks.”

Brittenay Taylor, a Lockeport resident, is worried sick over what is now being cited as the biggest privacy breach in Canadian history.

Taylor is one of 583,000 people in Canada whose information was on a portable hard drive that inexplicably went missing at the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada offices.

It was released that borrowers from 2000 to 2006 were effected and the missing files included student names, social insurance numbers, dates of birth, contact information and loan balances of borrowers, as well as the personal contact information of 250 department employees.

“Essentially all of the information a person would need to take out a loan, apply for a credit card or a mortgage,” said Taylor.

She said that the gravity of the situation has hit her hard. 

She was told by the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada office representative when she phoned in to monitor her credit history for fraudulent activity.

She calculated that the fee for monitoring her credit history over the next 50 or so years would add up quickly.

“It would double the cost of my student loan just to protect my identity,” she said.

The files were lost from an HRSDC office in Quebec.

“While there is no evidence at this time that any of the information has been accessed or used for fraudulent purposes, this incident is being taken very seriously and the office of the Minister has engaged the RCMP,” said a statement from the HRSDC.  “Extensive and thorough search efforts have been undertaken and continue.”

Taylor said that she wants to make sure that other possible victims were aware of the breach.

She herself was not contacted but learned of the incident through social media.

“Call the number and find out if you are someone whose information was taken,” said Taylor.

 There was no banking or medical information on the portable hard drive.

The HRSDC said that they would be issuing letters to those affected.

Last week the HRSDC issued a release saying that those people on the hard drive can have their credit file at Equifax at no cost for up to six years.

Equifax will be flagged to creditors who are viewing a credit file and will be advised to ask for additional proof of identity.

“This will help protect Canadians from having accounts opened or used by another individual.  The file notation does not impact your credit rating,” said the release.

But Taylor said that the release did not impress her.

“What they are offering is already a free service if you live anywhere in Canada but Manitoba and Ontario,” she said.

There have been class-action lawsuits initiated over the student loan borrowers’ lost data and Taylor said that she is one of the names on the suit.

“I plan to pursue this,” she said. 

She added that she is mystified as to why the Prime Minister has not addressed the largest breach of privacy in Canadian history.

“This is being treated like such a non-issue,” she said.  “It’s a slap in the face.”

She is now filled with worry over the possibility of someone running up her credit in her name.

Taylor has enough to worry about as she plans her wedding to take place this year and is now hesitant to link her financial information with her husband to be.

“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” she said.

A toll-free number has been set up at 1-866-885-1866 for individuals to verify if they are affected by this incident and to ask additional questions regarding the issue.  To request the credit protection services contact the HRSDC at 1-866-885-1866.