Passport photocopies of 47 Transat customers stolen in Spain

Photocopies of passports and customer information sheets of 47 Transat travelers were stolen in Spain last September, forcing the tour operator to urgently declare the incident to the Quebec Commission for Access to Information (CAI), learned The newspaper.

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Despite the sensitive nature of the stolen data, Transat does not plan to compensate its affected customers.

The mishap stems from “an unfortunate incident of theft, at destination, of the bag belonging to a group travel guide,” explains Andréan Gagné, spokesperson for Transat.

“While this method has been widely adopted in the group travel industry and offered on a voluntary basis, we have revised our practices in accordance with the new requirements of Bill 25,” she adds.

The passport’s personal information page contains several pieces of information that can help fraudsters create a false identity.

Photo provided by the Government of Canada

At NewspaperTransat specifies that it was common for an accompanying guide, from Canada, to collect and keep photocopies of passports “to offer additional assistance to travelers and rapid and efficient care in the event of an emergency”.

For Christophe Serrano, owner of the Voyages Super Prix and Voyages en direct agency in Montreal, Transat is far from being the only one to act in this way in the industry.

“It is common practice to make photocopies of passports, so I understand Transat. It’s always good to have a copy to interact with customers. This is often done with the consent of customers elsewhere,” he observes.

False identity

The bag was stolen in a Spanish hotel on September 22.

Has an investigation been opened? “The local authorities were of course called to the site and proceeded according to their protocol,” assures Transat.

For the Quebec company, the story is closed because it was “disclosed and processed according to the necessary regulatory procedures and handled with all due diligence and to the satisfaction of the customers concerned”.

But according to cybersecurity expert Steve Waterhouse, this theft could well end up having repercussions for those affected.

“These photocopies have no sales potential, but fraudsters can take the information and supplement it with social networks afterwards,” he illustrates.

“Did Interpol forward the results of the investigation to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)? The question arises,” the specialist wonders out loud.

Asked by The newspaperthe RCMP declined to comment on investigations by other agencies or police services.

More than 218 incident reports were received at the Commission d’access à l’information du Québec (CAI) between September 22, 2022 and March 31. In 38% of cases, this involved access to personal information not authorized by law. The most common causes were cyberattacks (24%), followed by ransomware (13%) and human errors (13%).


“There is no obligation to provide passport photocopies to a travel company,” recalls the Commission for Access to Information (CAI). This precious document is only necessary to identify yourself abroad or at the borders.

“The customer should not hesitate to inquire about the need for the company to request this document: why does it need the requested information? It is also recommended to ask questions about the retention, use and destruction of the personal information collected.

If the customer thinks that a company has not complied with the law, they can complain to the Commission for Access to Information (CAI).

“A sesame for pirates”

In recent days, several experts have explained to Newspaper that one had to present one’s passport or a photocopy of it with great caution.

“The passport is a gateway for pirates,” summarizes Stéphanie David, privacy and personal information lawyer at Dubé Latreille Avocats.

“Photocopies of passports should be in a locked safe with a code that only one person has,” she emphasizes.

“There is a difference between validating someone’s identity and keeping a photocopy of their passport. This document has a unique number, which makes it more sensitive, in addition to the date of birth,” observes Éloïse Gratton, privacy and personal information protection lawyer at BLG.

Lawyer Stéphanie David believes that passport photocopies should be treated like original passports.

Photo provided by Dubé Latreille Avocats

This information is classified as “sensitive personal information”, recalls lawyer Stéphanie David.

According to Paul Laurier, former investigator at the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), in less verified countries, passport copies can be used to create false identities. Fraudsters can then seize the information to build a puppet identity using social networks to carry out various crimes.

“People can be accused, for example, of having made transactions that they never made,” analyzes the expert trained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Great caution

At the Canadian Association of Travel Agencies and Travel Advisors (ACAVCV), its director, Manon Martel, says she takes the management of clients’ personal data very seriously.

Manon Martel, director of a major association of travel agencies, believes that the protection of personal information is crucial in her industry.

Photo provided by the Canadian Association of Travel Agencies and Travel Advisors

“The person who has photocopies of passports always keeps them in their room safe,” she assures.

“When a passenger sends the passport photocopy, we do not transfer the copy, but the information to the tour operator. As soon as we transfer the document, we destroy the email,” she explains.

At CAA-Quebec, travel group leaders do not ask for them.

“Certain hotels on the group travel itinerary, in certain countries, require you to have passports on hand to validate the identity of travelers,” notes its spokesperson, Nicolas Ryan.

“Good practice is to never leave your passport with a stranger unsupervised. This therefore also applies to a photocopy of your passport. It may still be a good practice to keep a photocopy of the passport, but in digital format, to avoid losing it in the same way as your physical passport,” he concludes.

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