Protecting your SIN
Your SIN is confidential. Do not use it as identification or provide it for job applications, rental applications, etc.
In the wrong hands, your SIN could lead to:
- an invasion of privacy
- identify theft
- loss of government benefits, tax refunds or bank credits
If someone uses your SIN to commit fraud, it could ruin your credit rating. Someone could also use your SIN to work illegally. In this case, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may expect you to pay tax on income you did not receive.
How to protect your SIN
To protect your SIN:
- do not carry your SIN in a wallet or purse—store it in a safe place
- never use your SIN as a piece of identification
- only provide your SIN when you know it is legally required
- give your SIN by phone ONLY if you made the call and know that it is legally required
- do not reply to emails that ask for personal information, such as your SIN
- shred paper records that contain your SIN once you no longer need them—do not recycle them
- update the SIN Program with changes to your name or citizenship status, or to indicate if your SIN record is wrong or incomplete
- take action right away to protect your SIN if you suspect someone is using it fraudulently
When to provide your SIN
The most common uses of your SIN are:
- after being hired
- when completing your income tax information
- when opening an account from which you earn interest at a bank or credit union
- when accessing government programs and benefits
The Social Insurance Number Code of Practice lists the federal programs that are permitted to use the SIN.
When NOT to provide your SIN
Some businesses may ask for your SIN. This is strongly discouraged, but not illegal.
For example, you do not have to provide your SIN to:
- prove your identity (except for certain government programs)
- apply for a job
- rent a property
- negotiate a lease with a landlord
- apply for a credit card
- cash a cheque
- complete some banking transactions (mortgage, line of credit, loan)
- complete a medical questionnaire
- rent a car
- sign up for cell phone, Internet or TV services
- write a will
- apply to a university or college
What to do if someone asks for your SIN when it’s not required
If someone asks for your SIN, ask questions. Ask why they need it, ask how they will use it, and ask who else will receive it. 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.
Ask to speak with the person in charge if you are denied service without providing your SIN. Many people are unaware of the appropriate uses of a SIN. Once they understand, they may change their practices.
If you are not happy with the response, you should file a complaint. To file a complaint call 1-800-282-1376 or visit the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada website.
You may choose to contact the association, ombudsman or complaint office of the group for the entity that asked for your SIN.
If you suspect someone is using your SIN
If you think someone else is using your SIN, act quickly. This will help prevent loss and minimize the negative impact.
Be vigilant; Watch for signs that someone else is using your SIN. For example, if CRA contacts you with a Notice of Reassessment for undeclared earnings, it may mean that someone else used your SIN to work or to receive other taxable income.
Reporting SIN fraud
To report fraud related to your SIN, follow these steps:
- File a police report. 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 three digits of your SIN) and ask for a copy of the report.
- Report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre on their website or by calling 1-888-495-8501. They can also provide advice and assistance on identity theft.
- 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 adding a fraud warning to your file instructing creditors to contact you personally before opening new accounts in your name (there may be a fee).
- Review both credit reports. Look for accounts that you did not open, or creditors who have made inquiries on your credit report when you did not ask for credit. If you see anything like this, contact each of these creditors and tell them about the identity theft. Ask them to close any accounts you did no t open and decline any new accounts you did not request.
- Review all your banking and credit card statements. If you notice suspicious transactions, immediately contact the financial institution.
- Report any problems with your mail to Canada Post. For example, if you receive opened envelopes, or do not receive your financial statements.
- Visit a Service Canada Centre with the following documents :
- a 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
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 someone has used your SIN fraudulently.
Once the list above is complete, provide the following information to Service Canada if you suspect someone is using your SIN to work or to obtain credit:
You suspect someone is using your SIN for work:
- A printed list of all the employers who issued a T4 slip for your SIN over the past 3 years. To obtain this printout, call CRA at 1-800-959-8281. Review this list and identify employers for whom you have not worked. Service Canada will contact them on your behalf.
- A clear photograph of yourself. Service Canada will share this picture with the identified employers and confirm whether you have worked for them.
- A list of every address where you lived over the last 10 years.
You suspect someone is using your SIN 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 SIN program from fraud and misuse. It takes any breach of information very seriously.
If you have been 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 reduce the potential impact.
Service Canada does not issue a new SIN for those affected by a data breach.
A new SIN does not protect you from fraud and identity theft
The Government can only share your new SIN with the federal departments and agencies that use your SIN.
Therefore, you are responsible of providing your new SIN to every financial institution, creditor, pension provider, recent and current employer, and any other organization with which you shared your old SIN.
By not doing or failing to do so properly, you risk not receiving benefits or leaving the door open to subsequent fraud or identity theft.
A new SIN does not erase your old SIN
A new SIN would mean an additional burden on you, as you would have to monitor, not only your old account and credit reports, but your new one as well on a regular and ongoing basis. Numerous SINs multiply the risk of fraud.
If you have been issued a new SIN
If you receive a new SIN, contact all your banks, creditors, pension providers and employers so that they may update your files.
Note: Service Canada cannot correct a credit file.
A new SIN will not protect you from fraud or identity theft. If someone uses your old SIN and a business does no t check your account with the credit bureau, you may need to pay the impostor’s debts. Every time someone else uses your old SIN fraudulently, 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 by storing personal information carefully in computer systems that are only accessible by authorized employees who have a "need to know".
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