A portable hard drive containing the information on 583,000 Canadians who applied with Canada Student Loans between the years of 2000 and 2006 went missing from their headquarters earlier this month.
Staff realized that the information had gone missing while looking for another misplaced item: a USB drive containing the personal information of 5,000 Canadians that was also lost back in December.
Data lost on the hard drive includes: Social Insurance Numbers (SIN), dates of birth, contact information and loan balances on any student loan applied for during the period of the time in question. The personal contact information for 250 Human Resources and Skills Development Canada employees was also on the hard drive.
Recipients in Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories were not affected.
The loss of this material allows its current unknown possessor access to a great deal of information that could potentially lead to identity theft. Victims will be receiving a letter in the mail if they have been affected; enclosed will be a set of actions that they can take to protect themselves.
In the meantime, there will be a toll-free number to call (1-866-885-1866) to see if their names made it to the list of those marked by the incident.
According to Canadian Human Resources Minister, Diane Finley, the RCMP are now involved.
Federal officers who deal with SIN numbers have been alerted and will be keeping watch for “fraudulent” activity involving the information of those whose files have been lost. So far, there is no evidence of the data being used illegally.
Portable hard drives and USB keys have now been banned from the student loans department. Events like this only prove the ease of which information can be stolen in today’s age.
Victims have been advised to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 if they believe their information is being used illegally.