Several education workers in the Fredericton area have had their identity stolen in recent months, resulting in false requests for employment insurance being made in their name.
The 15 employees affected work as educational assistants and administrators in French schools in the capital region, according to their union, who spoke to Radio-Canada.
They work under the Francophone Sud School District during the school year and collect employment insurance over Christmas break and in the summer. But they've been unable to access their benefits, because the funds have been redirected into other bank accounts instead.
Radio-Canada was able to connect with eight workers Wednesday impacted by the fraud.
They said someone gained access to their Service Canada accounts and altered their personal information to get hold of their benefits.
That was the case for Mélanie Gosselin, who works at École des Bâtisseurs in Fredericton.
"There were five or six demands that were made in my name. They changed my bank number, and changed the language on my account. Mine is always in French, but they changed it to be served in English," Gosselin said in an interview with Radio Canada.
She's been unable to get back into her account and has already spent several hours on the phone with Service Canada, who has yet to resolve the situation, she said.
The other workers contacted by Radio Canada have experienced the same ordeal.
"It's always these endless wait times for them to tell you after an hour that 'Yes, you've been scammed, I can't do anything at my level, so I have to transfer you to our fraud department,'" Gosselin said.
Gosselin tries to get into her Service Canada account each day to see if the problem has been fixed, but she's starting to lose hope about getting the benefits she's owed before the summer break is over.
Marie-Claude Lambert, who works at École Sainte-Anne, is in the same boat. After applying for benefits for the spring break in March, she found out her account had been hacked.
"After I realized that I wasn't getting any payments in my account, I started asking questions," she said. "That's when I realized that someone had changed the name of my mother, had changed my address, and that they had all of my information in their possession."
She has applied for her summer benefits, but hasn't been able to receive those either.
"It's stressful knowing all of my personal information is in someone else's hands. It's stressful to not know if I'm going to receive my benefits because someone else is getting them instead," Lambert said. "Some nights I can't sleep."
She said someone also tried to open credit cards in her name, but was unsuccessful. She signed up for credit monitoring services at her own expense since then.
"It's like my identity has just disappeared. And I've been wondering, is this going to end at some point?"
Radio Canada reached out to Employment and Social Development Canada, which is responsible for employment insurance, to learn more about the identity thefts, but has yet to receive a response clarifying what happened.
The protection of citizens' personal information remains a top priority, a spokesperson for the minister responsible for the department said in an email, adding there are measures in place to detect suspicious activity in clients' accounts.
"This is such an unfortunate situation for our employees. We want to be able to do more to help them, but it's a situation that's out of our control," said Monique Boudreau, the general director of the school district.
"We still have about 400 educational assistants and we also have other employees in our organization who have employment insurance benefits during the summer, and they don't seem to have been affected by the situation," Boudreau added.
She doesn't believe the information was leaked through the school district's IT network.
"Our employees' information is held and protected by a provincial network. It's not our own network, it's held by the minister of education. It's a very secure network," she said.
With files from Pascal Raiche-Nogue of Radio-Canada.