AMHERST – The worst part of borrowing a student loan, most students might say, could be the long years of paying it back. For former student Denise Corey, that was not the case.
Corey recently discovered that her student loan information was just one of the loans that could be at risk when Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) announced that one of their employees lost one of their hard drives.
“There was a press release on Jan. 11, from HRSDC, and they said that ‘whoops’, one of the staff members lost a portable hard drive with over 583,000 student borrowers names, personal insurance numbers, birth dates and addresses,” said Corey.
Upon reading the release, Corey said she called the toll free number listed and discovered that her information was in fact disclosed.
According to the press release on the CanLearn website, any borrowers who took out loans between 2000 and 2006 could be affected but borrowers from Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are not.
Amélie Maisonneuve, the media relations spokesperson for HRSDC said the hard drive first went missing in November.
“An HRSDC employee at national headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec discovered that one external hard drive was missing, and search efforts began,” she said in an email. “Management was information on Nov. 22.”
Maisonneuve explained that once management discovered the hard drive was missing, they conducted a detailed analysis of all the files that were on the hard drive. That is when they discovered large amounts of personal information of their borrowers were now missing. On Jan. 7, the Office of the Minister contacted the RCMP.
HRSDC is in the process of sending letters to the individuals who are affected by this error.
“HRSDC will provide individuals whose information was disclosed with guidance on appropriate measures and precautions to take to minimize and mitigate the potential impact of this incident,” said Maisonneuve.
Corey said when she called their number, she was told she had to make contact with the credit bureau in order to have them flag her credit rating.
“I have to contact my bank and tell them my credit information has been lost,” she said. “I have to do all the work and all they can do is tell me that if my information is used fraudulently, they’ll give me a new social security number. That is all they’re doing.”
Corey said she doesn’t feel like HRSDC is really doing anything to help her and other borrowers in her situation. All the HRSDC can do, she said, was read her a statement.
“I was so angry,” she said. “I hung up on them (when I called). When I was told, I started to cry. All I can think is the worse case scenario. I’ve always been careful. I never gave out my information unless I had to. Then, someone loads up a portable hard drive with all those names. Why?”
Maisonneuve said the department is reviewing the ways in which they handle Canadians data information and will fix any gaps that could allow this to reoccur. They will also be updating their network security practices to prohibit the use of external hard drives.
Anyone who is concerned about their personal information who took out a student loan between 2000 and 2006 can call 1-866-885-1866. Their hours of operation are between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.