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Identity Theft and REALTOR® Identification Obligations Under FINTRAC

Multiple cases involving identity, title and mortgage fraud have made headlines recently in Ontario and BC. These cases remind us of the importance of continued vigilance. Could the Realtors in these cases have prevented the fraud? Maybe, but fraud prevention is an ongoing obligation not only for Realtors, but also for banks, lawyers, and everyone else who has a stake in the industry. We all need to continue to do our part to promote public confidence and safeguard the integrity of the profession.

Realtor members are reminded of your duty to verify the identity of a client under FINTRAC requirements. The government-issued photo identification method should be used whenever possible. Examples of acceptable ID documents are:

  • Canadian passport
  • Citizenship card (issued prior to 2012)
  • British Columbia Driver’s Licence
  • Dept. of Defense Driver’s Licence
  • NEXUS Card
  • Permanent resident card
  • Secure Certificate of Indian Status
  • Other Provincial or Territorial Driver’s
  • British Columbia Services Card

This list is non-exhaustive, and ID documents issued by municipal governments are not acceptable. In addition, members are expected to verify that the ID documents viewed are:

  1. Authentic – as issued by the authority;
  2. Valid – unaltered, not counterfeit; and
  3. Current – not expired.

The best way to verify an ID document is by viewing the ID in person and in the presence of the person being identified. It goes without saying the name and appearance of the person being identified must match the name and photo on the ID. Take care also to examine the characteristics of an ID document and its security features. In other words, it’s not enough to simply view a piece of ID via email or Zoom. Realtors can also elect to incorporate additional levels of checks into their practice above the minimum requirements set by FINTRAC. Combining the government photo ID verification method with the dual-process method is an example of a more stringent, multi-facet approach to ID verification that Realtors can consider. See these FINTRAC guidelines for more information on ID verification methods.

In addition to the knowing how to verify a client’s identity, Realtors are expected to know when this may be required. Acting as the agent on a transaction is enough to initiate a Realtor’s FINTRAC obligation. Members must also verify the identity of a client in the following situations:

  • Large cash transactions
  • Suspicious transactions
  • Information records
  • Large virtual currency transactions
  • Receipt of funds
  • Unrepresented parties

See these guidelines for details to determine when Realtors must verify the identity of a client.