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General, Law

ID Why we ask

Author: Christopher Green

“—a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet” penned the immortal bard.

But then, he didn’t work at Darnell Law Group where our steely eyed reception staff are ever vigilant for people playing fast and loose with their names, pouncing upon pretty much everyone who comes through the door, to demand two pieces of ID.

The request to produce ID takes many people aback, especially those who have come to us precisely because they know us from elsewhere, so we are frequently asked the question: ”so, what’s this all about?”

It’s understandable, since we are told incessantly to safeguard our personal information jealously, and not to flash our identity documents or credit cards unnecessarily, and on almost daily basis we ward off phishing schemes designed to pry valuable personal information from us, so alarm bells go off when met with a demand to produce ID.

The short answer is that we ask because the Law Society insists that we ask, and even sends inspectors around periodically to make sure we do. If we can’t verify your identity, we can’t act for you.

The Law Society “know your client” rule and mandatory “client identification’ protocols are intended to prevent both fraud and money laundering. Millions of dollars flow through our trust account each month; the proceeds of real estate transactions, business deals, divorce settlements, estates and so forth. It is a very scary thought that any of that money might end up in the hands of fraudsters, so checking ID is a first, and important step in knowing who we are dealing with, and whose money we are holding. And of course, we wouldn’t want to be divorcing the wrong person, would we!

Like all businesses our law firm is subject to both the requirements of PIPEDA (the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) federally, and BC’s own Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) both of which which govern what information we can collect, what use we can make of it, and how we must safeguard it. So, please be assured that your information is safe with us, and it’s not our intention to be unduly intrusive.

The bad news however, is that it is going to get worse, with stringent new guidelines coming into force in 2020 requiring us to make inquiries as to the source of money being used for a property purchase, as well as to document the actual beneficial ownership of property, corporate shares and so forth.

This new legislation stems in part from people trying to dodge the tax penalties on foreign buyers, as well as the new Speculation and Empty Homes tax, by masking the true ownership of real estate through the use of nominee purchasers, corporations, and trusts.

So, we aren’t just being nosy – our inquiries are an important component in the fight against fraud and money laundering, and we thank you for being a good sport when we start peppering you with intrusive questions.

(Oh, and did we mention that we aren’t allowed to take hockey bags stuffed with cash, either?)