By Doreen Dawang
The federal government is advising the 583,000 students affected by the missing external hard drive containing their social insurance numbers from the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) office to get credit checks.
Kriselle Fernandez, a student loan borrower from 2005 to 2011 and one of the individuals affected, told Humber News HRSDC advised her to contact a credit bureau such as TransUnion and Equifax to monitor her credit information, a service that is an extra expense for someone who had finished paying off her student loans.
“Those kind of things cost money per month,” said Fernandez, 26. “I feel like at the very least, they should offer that credit monitoring or, ideally, a new SIN number.”
HRSDC issued a statement saying that they have sent out letters to those affected as early as last week.
Fernandez, a graduate of Waterloo and Queens University, said she did not receive a letter, and was notified by her sister of the event. She contacted the toll-free number, which she found a frustrating experience.
“You can tell by the way that they were talking they had a very specific script that they were reading from,” Fernandez said. “But it wasn’t very satisfying because they didn’t really offer any solutions until I prompted them and asked what should I do.”
Holsee Sahid, financial aid manager at Humber College, agrees with Fernandez. Sahid said it’s not the students’ fault and the government should be paying for any additional costs.
“The ministry should be doing that for them, in my opinion anyways,” Sahid said. “If the incident happened on their end, then they should be compensating the students for anything that’s costing them.”
On Jan. 11, the HRSDC revealed an external hard drive went missing containing data of over 583,000 Canada Student Loans borrowers from 2000 to 2006. The device contained student names, social insurance numbers and personal contact information. The minister of HRSDC, Diane Finley had filed a statement expressing her apologies.
Bob Buckingham, a Newfoundland lawyer has issued a class action lawsuit on behalf of the students affected, but has not established a set figure amount.
“We haven’t set a figure because we knew that it would take some time to assess the damages,” Buckingham said. “The impact it’s going to have on people will vary depending on whether this has just been lost or misplaced within the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada office, or whether its been stolen.”
Buckingham said identity theft is on everyone’s mind. People want someone who is going to represent them and establish a policy to protect themselves from identity theft.
Buckingham said the next step he’ll take depends on the Canadian government.
“They have 30 days to file their defense,” he said. “And as soon as they file their defense, I will be filing my motion for certification of my case as a national class action, and I intend to represent the 583,000 people.”