Protecting your Social Insurance Number

Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) is confidential.

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.

If someone uses your SIN to work illegally or to obtain credit, you may suffer hardship. You could be requested to pay additional taxes for income you did not receive or you could have difficulty obtaining credit because someone may have ruined your credit rating.

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

  • Provide your SIN only when you know that it is legally required.
  • Store any document containing your SIN and personal information in a safe place—do not keep it with you.
  • Contact Service Canada if you change your name, if your temporary citizenship status changes to a permanent resident status or if information on your SIN record is incorrect or incomplete.
  • Take immediate measures to protect your SIN when you suspect someone else is using your SIN fraudulently.

Who can ask for your SIN

The most common uses of your SIN are for:

Consult the SIN: Code of Practice for a complete list and description of the federal legislation and programs which are specifically permitted to use the SIN.

When you don't have to provide your SIN

Some private-sector organizations may ask for your SIN. This practice is strongly discouraged, but it is not illegal.

Here are examples of when you don't have to give your SIN:

  • proving your identity (except for specific government programs)
  • completing a job application before you get the job
  • completing an application to rent a property
  • negotiating a lease with a landlord
  • completing a credit card application
  • cashing a cheque
  • completing some banking transactions (mortgage, line of credit, loan)
  • completing a medical questionnaire
  • renting a car
  • subscribing to long-distance or cellular telephone services
  • writing a will
  • applying to a university or college

If an organization asks for a SIN and it is not legally required

If you believe your SIN isn't required, ask why it is being requested, how it will be used and with whom it will be shared.

If your SIN is not required by law, explain that you prefer not to provide it. Offer different proof of identity.

If the organization refuses to provide the product or service unless you provide your SIN, ask to speak to the person in charge. Many organizations don't 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 may formally complain to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada or 1-800-282-1376. There is no fee for making a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner.

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.

For more information on laws about your privacy and the Government of Canada, visit the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

If you suspect someone is using your SIN

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

  1. File a complaint with the police. Ask for the case reference number and the officer's name and telephone number. If you choose to obtain a copy of the police report, make sure it states your name and SIN.
  2. Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. The national anti-fraud call centre is jointly managed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police and Competition Bureau Canada. They provide advice and assistance about identity theft.
  3. Call Canada's two national credit bureaus. Ask for a copy of your credit report. Review it for any suspicious activity. Also check to see if your credit file should be flagged (fees may be applicable). To obtain additional information regarding fees and other requirements, please contact:
    • Equifax: 1-800-465-7166
    • TransUnion: 1-800-663-9980 (for residents of Quebec: 1-877-713-3393)
  4. Inform your bank and creditors by phone and in writing about any irregularities.
  5. Report any irregularities in your mail delivery to Canada Post, for example, opened envelopes, missing financial statements or documents.
  6. Visit a Service Canada office and bring all the necessary documents with you proving fraud or misuse of your SIN. Also bring an original identity document  (your birth certificate, or immigration or citizenship document). One of our officials will review your information and provide you with assistance and guidance.

If you have been victim of fraud

You can ask for a new SIN only if you can prove that your SIN was used fraudulently.

However, getting a new SIN will not necessarily protect you from fraud or identity theft. If someone else uses your old SIN as identification 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.

If we issue 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. It is up to you to contact your financial institution(s), report any discrepancies and have them resolved.

If you have proof that someone else is using your SIN, an investigation is required.

An indication that your SIN is being used fraudulently is when you receive a Notice of Reassessment from the Canada Revenue Agency concerning undeclared earnings. This means that another person has used your SIN for employment purposes or to receive other taxable income.

You must visit your nearest Service Canada Centre with your original proof of identity documents and provide proof that another person has used your SIN.

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

To work

  • A printout of all the employers who issued a T4 slip for your SIN over the past three years. This printout can be obtained from the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-959-8281. 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 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.
  • Proof that you have filed a complaint with the police. This can be either the case reference number along with the officer's name and their telephone number or a copy of the police report if you obtained one.

To obtain credit

  • A copy of the credit application filled in by someone else who used your SIN. This application must show both your name and your SIN.
  • A letter from a creditor confirming that someone else used your name and 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.
  • Proof that you have filed a complaint with the police. This can be either the case reference number along with the officer's name and their telephone number or a copy of the police report if you obtained one.

Note: Service Canada cannot correct a credit file. It is up to you to contact your financial institution(s), report any discrepancies and have them resolved.

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.
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