How to protect your SIN

Your SIN (social insurance number) is confidential and it’s important to protect it from fraudulent use.

If your SIN falls into the wrong hands, it could be used to obtain personal information and invade your privacy. When the SIN is not linked to you as its rightful owner, another person could receive your government benefits, tax refunds or bank credits. Your personal information could also be revealed to unauthorized people, which could lead to identity theft and other types of fraud.

Your SIN being used to commit fraud could ruin your credit rating and make it very hard to get credit in the future.

Someone might use your SIN to receive your government payments or tax refunds or to work illegally. If your SIN is used to work illegally, the Canada Revenue Agency could expect you to pay tax on income you did not receive.

How to protect your SIN

There are a number of things you can do to protect your SIN:

  • if you have a SIN card, do not carry it in your wallet or purse—store it in a safe place
  • never use your SIN as a piece of identification
  • provide your SIN only when you know that it is legally required
  • provide your SIN over the phone only if you make the call and you know it is legally required
  • never reply to emails that ask for personal information like your SIN
  • shred paper records with your SIN once you no longer need them—do not recycle them
  • contact Service Canada if you change your name, if your citizenship status changes, or if information on your SIN record is incorrect or incomplete
  • take action immediately to protect your SIN if you suspect someone is using it fraudulently. See the section “If you suspect someone is using your SIN or have been victim of fraud” below

When to provide your SIN

The most common uses of your SIN are for:

  • after being hired by your employer
  • when completing your income tax information
  • when opening an account from which you earn interest at a financial institution such as a bank or credit union
  • when accessing government programs and benefits such as:
    • Canada Pension Plan benefits
    • Quebec Pension Plan benefits
    • Old Age Security benefits
    • Employment Insurance benefits
    • Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP)
    • Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP)
    • Canada Child Benefit
    • Canada Student Loans
    • Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) claims
    • Social assistance benefits
    • Veterans’ benefits and programs
    • Workers’ compensation benefits
    • Child support payments

The Social Insurance Number Code of Practice lists the federal programs that are permitted to use the SIN.

Some businesses may ask for you for your SIN. This is strongly discouraged, but it is not illegal.

For example, you do not have to provide your SIN for:

  • proving your identity (except for certain government programs)
  • applying for a job
  • applying to rent a property
  • negotiating a lease with a landlord
  • applying for a credit card
  • cashing a cheque
  • completing some banking transactions (mortgage, line of credit, loan)
  • completing a medical questionnaire
  • renting a car
  • signing up for cell phone, Internet or TV services
  • writing a will
  • applying to a university or college

If you are asked for your SIN when it is not legally required

If your SIN is not required by law, ask why it is being requested, how it will be used and with whom it will be shared. Explain that your SIN is not required by law and that you do not want to provide it. Offer to use a different proof of identity.

If the company or organization refuses to provide the product or service unless you provide your SIN, ask to speak to the person in charge. Many companies and organizations do not know about the appropriate uses of the SIN. Once they understand, they may willingly change their practices.

If you are not satisfied with the organization’s response, you are entitled to file a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. For more information on this or on laws about your privacy and the Government of Canada, call or call 1-800-282-1376 or visit the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada website.

You can also contact the organization’s industry association, ombudsman or complaint office. For example, the Canadian Marketing Association and the Canadian Banking Ombudsman handle customer complaints about their member companies.

If you suspect someone is using your SIN or have been victim of fraud

If you suspect that someone else is using your SIN, act quickly to help prevent personal loss and minimize the negative impact.

An indication that your SIN is being used fraudulently could be if the Canada Revenue Agency sends you a Notice of Reassessment concerning undeclared earnings. This may mean that someone has used your SIN for employment purposes or to receive other taxable income.

Here are some key steps to follow:

    1. File a report with the police. Ask for the case reference number and the officer’s name and telephone number. Make sure the report states your name and SIN (your full SIN or last 3 digits) and ask for a copy of the report.
    2. Report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre on their website or by calling 1-888-495-8501. They are also able to provide advice and assistance about identity theft.
    3. Contact Canada’s 2 major credit bureaus to tell them you have been a victim of identity fraud:Equifax Canada

      TransUnion Canada

      Ask each credit bureau for a copy of your credit report (there may be a fee). Obtain information about having a fraud warning be placed on your file, instructing creditors to contact you personally before opening new accounts in your name (there may be a fee).

    4. Review both credit reports. Look for accounts that you didn’t open yourself, or creditors that have made inquiries on your credit report when you didn’t ask for credit. If you see anything like this in your credit report, contact each of these creditors and tell them about the identity theft. Ask them to close any accounts you didn’t open and decline any new accounts you didn’t request.
    5. Review all your banking and credit card statements. If you notice suspicious transactions, immediately contact the financial institution.
    6. Report any problems with your mail to Canada Post — for example, if you receive opened envelopes, or do not receive your financial statements.
    7. Visit a Service Canada Centre. You must bring the following documents:
      • proof that someone has used your SIN
      • the police report (the Police case reference number/Report you filed with the police)
      • a valid primary identity document (for example, a birth certificate or Certificate of Canadian citizenship)

A Service Canada official will help you. Your case may be referred to an investigator. Service Canada may issue a new SIN but only if there is proof that your SIN was used fraudulently.

Here’s what you will need to provide to Service Canada if you suspect someone is using your SIN:

To work:

  • a printout of a list of all the employers who issued a T4 slip for your SIN over the past 3 years. Call the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-959-8281 to ask for this printout. Check for any employers for whom you have not worked. Service Canada will contact them on your behalf
  • a clear photograph of yourself for every employer on the list for whom you did not work. Photographs make it easier for a Service Canada official to confirm with the employer(s) that you didn’t work for them
  • a list of every address where you lived over the last 10 years

To obtain credit:

  • a copy of the credit application from the credit issuer where your SIN was used to obtain credit. This application must have been filled in by someone else and show both your name and your SIN
  • a letter from a creditor confirming that someone else used your SIN to apply for credit. This letter must include both your name and SIN and state that you are not responsible for any purchases made fraudulently using your information

If you have been affected by a data breach

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the integrity of the Social Insurance Number program from fraud and misuse. It takes any breach of information very seriously.

Why Service Canada does not issue new Social Insurance Numbers for those affected by a data breach

A new Social Insurance Number does not protect you from fraud and identity theft

A new Social Insurance Number is not a fresh start or protection from fraud or identity theft.

If someone else uses your old Social Insurance Number and the business does not check the person’s identity, you may have to prove you were not involved in the fraud or pay the impostor’s debts.

A new Social Insurance Number is a complex affair

The Government can only share your new Social Insurance Number with the federal departments and agencies that use your Social Insurance Number.

This means that it would be up to you to provide your new Social Insurance Number to all the financial institutions, creditors, pension providers, recent and current employers, and any other organizations with which you shared your old Social Insurance Number.

Not doing or failing to do so properly risks not receiving benefits or leaves the door open to subsequent fraud or identity theft.

You double your monitoring efforts with 2 Social Insurance Numbers instead of 1

A new Social Insurance Number does not erase your old Social Insurance Number. You would therefore need to monitor your accounts and credit reports for both Social Insurance Numbers on a regular and ongoing basis. This would put burden on you. Numerous Social Insurance Numbers multiply the risk of fraud.

The best way to protect yourself if you are affected by a data breach

Contact Canada’s 2 major credit bureaus to monitor your file.

  • Equifax: 1-800-465-7166
  • TransUnion: 1-800-663-9980

Regularly review your banking and credit card statements, especially after the credit monitoring service ends.

If you notice any suspicious activity, immediately report it to the police contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and inform Service Canada. This will help to reduce the potential impact.

If you have been issued a new SIN

If Service Canada issues you a new SIN, you will need to contact all your financial institutions, creditors, pension providers and employers (most recent and current) to ask them to update your files.

Note: Service Canada cannot correct a credit file. You must contact your financial institution(s) yourself.

Getting a new SIN will not protect you from fraud or identity theft. If someone else uses your old SIN and the business does not check the person’s identity with the credit bureau, credit lenders may still ask you to pay the impostor’s debts. Each time, you will have to prove that you were not involved in the fraud.

How Service Canada protects your SIN

Service Canada stores personal information requested to apply for a SIN in the Social Insurance Register. This information includes:

  • your name
  • date of birth
  • place of birth, and
  • your parents’ names

Dates of death are also recorded in the Register.

Service Canada protects your SIN in the following ways:

  • we store your personal information carefully on our premises and in computer systems that are only accessible to authorized employees who have a “need to know”
  • we provide guidance about how to protect your SIN and your personal information