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Ottawa to pay for credit protection after student loan recipients' info lost

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OTTAWA -- Two weeks after admitting it had lost personal information of 583,000 student loan clients, the federal government has agreed to pay for six years of credit protection for the victims.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley made the announcement this afternoon, although she noted there is no evidence the information has been used for fraudulent reasons.

"I want to reassure Canadians that we are serious about protecting their personal information," Finley said in a news release. "That is why we will provide potentially affected individuals with credit protection at no cost, which will flag their credit files and help detect any potential compromise of their personal information."

The information was compromised when an employee lost a portable hard drive containing the names, birthdates, addresses, social insurance numbers and outstanding loan amounts of 583,000 Canada Student Loan clients. The hard drive had been stored in a filing cabinet when the employee noticed it was no longer there.

The loss was only identified to management during the investigation of another privacy breach -- the loss of similar information of disability pension applicants that was stored on a USB memory stick.

To get the credit protection, people need to call the HRSDC call centre, 1-866-885-1866, and agree to let Canada pass on their information to Equifax

One woman whose information was on the hard drive said the latest development doesn't give her much comfort.

"I feel like they are in damage-control mode," she said. "I think it's the right thing for them to do at a minimum, but it's still a big deal."

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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