How Much Personal Info is Too Much?

These days some merchants and institutions tend to ask for a plethora of information in exchange for a service or a good. We have become so accustomed to it that we rarely ask ourselves just how much personal information we veritably need to give away on each occasion. This is why we’ve decided to put together a list of what documents organizations are truly in the right to ask for.

Sure, it’s not necessarily the sexiest of subjects but this information can be essential in preventing your personal information from falling in the wrong hands and potentially losing large sums of money because of it.

Opening a Bank Account: You should be required to present two original pieces of ID that can include your social insurance number (SIN), passport, driving license, health insurance card, Canadian birth certificate, etc.

If you, for any reason, don’t have two, it is possible to provide only one piece of identification from this list accompanied by another one from the following: debit card, credit card or passport from another country than Canada. Another possibility is to show up with a friend or a relative who is a client from this institution to identify you.

Opening a High Interest Account (RRSP, TFSA, etc.) : On top of the information regularly required to open a bank account, you will be asked to include your SIN (no exceptions). This is entirely normal since the financial institution will need to prepare fiscal forms.

Applying for a Credit Card or a Loan: A person’s name, address and birth date are enough to complete a thorough background check. Institutions and merchants that ask for more information than this are going too far.

Completing a Purchase with your Credit Card: Nothing other than your card is necessary. A merchant that asks for more documents, is once again, in the wrong.

Signing a Lease: Before renting an apartment, certain owners think that they can ask for a wide range of documents, including: SIN, driver’s license, salary, bank account number, employer’s name, etc. All of this is illegal. Now, we do realize that in reality people who are looking for an apartment will usually prefer to simply give away any of the information owners ask for in order to get the lease. We simply wanted to highlight the fact that you do have a choice and that the law is on your side.

The only information an owner is entitled to ask for is your name, address, phone number and a ID can be required for identification purposes only. An owner can also ask for the name and phone number of the previous landlord to verify if the future renter has had discipline problems in the past.

To verify a future renter’s capacity to pay, the building owner can ask for a credit report sample. With the consent of the future renter, the owner can do this himself, but a SIN isn’t necessary for this (as opposed to what some owners may claim).

Renting Furniture: Since this is a bit riskier and a renter could simply disappear in the wild and never return the goods, more information can be asked for.

On top of the client’s name, address and date of birth, the service provider can also ask for the coordinates of the renter’s employer, pay frequency and seniority in the enterprise. Again, a renter’s identity can be verified by using an I.D., but the information cannot be noted.

Cashing a Traveller’s Cheque: For any cheques of $3000 or less, the enterprise should only keep the client’s name, address, phone number and when the cheque was cashed.

The Bottom-Line
This completes our list of some of the most common situations merchants and institutions ask for personal information (and which ones you actually should give away). As always, we are interested in knowing what you have to say so please let us know if you have anything to add or if you think we forgot to list a common service or good.

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