Desjardins announces identity theft protection for members

The announcement follows an unauthorised use of internal data by an employee in June

Canadian financial co-operative Desjardins is offering members protection against identity theft, making it the first financial institution in Canada to offer such coverage to all members at no cost.

In June, Desjardins announced that an unauthorised use of internal data by an employee had led to the breach of personal information of 2.7 million members and 137,000 business clients. This included the social insurance number, address and details of banking habits of more than 2.9 million members.

The breach came to the attention of Quebec’s Laval police, who contacted Desjardins to confirm that personal details of its members had been shared with individuals outside the organisation.

The largest association of credit unions (also known as caisses) in North America, Desjardins said the employee involved in the case had been fired.

The co-op will offer members who were victims of identity theft access to lawyers and experts and reimburse them for certain expenses incurred as a result.

“Today, we’re sending a message to all of our members,” said Guy Cormier, president and CEO of Desjardins Group. “Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

“If your identity has been stolen, give us a call. Desjardins is here for you. And we’re going to continue to support you, like we always have. That’s what we’re here to tell you.”

He added: “Our teams have been working non-stop to put this coverage together for you. All caisse members are automatically covered as of this morning. You don’t need to sign up, and you’ll only ever have to deal with Desjardins.”

From 15 July, all Desjardins caisse members have a new type of coverage that will reimburse them up to CA $50,000 (£30,930) for expenses related to identity theft. This could cover salary loss, document notarisation, legal or accounting fees, and other types of related expenses.

Guy Cormier, president, chair of the board and chief executive of Desjardins (Photo: Desjardins Group)

Shortly after the breach, Mr Cormier reassured members and clients that their accounts and assets with Desjardins were protected in the event of fraud. The co-op confirmed any financial loss suffered by members and clients as a result of the breach would be refunded.

In light of the security breach at Desjardins, Canada’s public safety and national security committee held an emergency meeting to discuss whether the co-op had breached its duty to protect private information.

At the meeting, Mr Cormier called for a committee of government, businesses, financial institutions and citizens to study best practices around and recommend changes to laws to ensure Canadians are protected against identity theft.

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