Professional identity theft: What to do if you’re a victim

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The syndic’s column

We sometimes receive calls from members who report that their professional identity has been stolen.

The facts reported are similar. CPAs receive a call from a banker or vendor asking if

  • company Y is a client of theirs, or
  • if they issued a report on company Y’s financial statements on a given date.

Unfortunately, neither the Order nor the syndic can intervene in this situation, as it is not a case of illegal practice or unauthorized use of the designation.

Our recommendations

You should make three phone calls, namely to

  1. your professional liability insurer, to report the situation in case a lawsuit is filed against you;
  2. the police, so they can conduct an investigation; and
  3. a lawyer, to seek legal advice and obtain answers to the following questions:
a) How can you dissociate yourself from the report and financial statements that the person who used your identity issued to those concerned and to the client? 
b) How can you ensure the documents issued under false pretenses are recovered and all copies destroyed? 
c) What other steps can be taken to protect all third parties (and yourself, by extension) and ensure they do not rely on these documents? 

d) If you know the person who used your identity, is it possible to send this individual a formal notice?

Members or firms should establish a clear policy on their employees’ use of their stationery, company name and electronic signatures.