7.11 How to Verify Identity
Verification of Individuals
You must verify the identity of individuals at the time that you engage in or give instructions with respect to the receipt, payment or transfer of funds. This applies to
- individual clients,
- individuals who give instructions on behalf of clients who are organizations and
- individuals who are third parties who may be instructing the client or on whose behalf the client is retaining the lawyer.
The Rules of the Law Society of Alberta provide that you must take reasonable steps to verify the individual’s identity.
If you are meeting the client face-to-face, obtain and retain copies of reliable, independent source documents, data or information which may include valid original government-issued identification such as a
- Driver’s license
- Birth certificate
- Provincial or territorial health insurance card
- Similar record
(collectively, the independent source documents)
If you are not meeting the client face-to-face but the client is in Canada, you must verify the client’s identity by obtaining an attestation from a commissioner for oaths or a guarantor in Canada which states that the commissioner or guarantor has seen one of the independent source documents. This attestation must:
- be produced on a legible copy of the independent source document being used to verify the client’s identity,
- contain a statement that the person providing the attestation has seen the identifying source document,
- include the type and number of the identifying source document provided by the client and
- include the name, profession, address and signature of the commissioner or guarantor.
The list of professions who can act as guarantors is found in Rule 118.6(6).
You must use due diligence to ascertain that the person providing the attestation is eligible to do so.
If the client is not physically present and is outside Canada, you must
- retain an agent to verify the client’s identity,
- enter into a written agreement with the agent,
- have the agent prepare an attestation in the required form and
- obtain the information used by the agent under the agreement.
Verification of Organization’s Identity
If your client or the third party is an organization, you have verification obligations with respect to the organization as well as the individual who gives instructions on its behalf.
- You must take reasonable steps to verify the organization’s identity and obtain what you reasonably believe to be reliable independent source documents, data or information and retain a copy of every document on which you rely.
If the organization is a corporation or a society created pursuant to legislative authority, you should consult a government organization or the client to obtain
• written confirmation of the existence, name and address of the organization,
• names of its directors,
• appropriate source documents, including certificates of corporate status or annual returns,
• any other similar records which may confirm the organization’s existence and
• minute books, where available.
This list is not exhaustive. You may rely on any reliable documents, even if they do not come from a government source. If the organization is not a corporation or a society and is not registered in a government registry, you can consider
• copies of constating documents,
• articles of association,
• partnership agreements,
• documents which create or amend the trust, if the client is a trust and
• other records that confirm the organization’s existence like GST registration or information relating to the organization’s business license.
- You must also make reasonable efforts to obtain and record
• the names and occupations of all directors (unless the organization is a securities dealer as defined in Rule 118.1(i)) and
• the names, addresses and occupations of all persons who own 25% or more of the shares in the organization.
You should verify the identity of the organization within 60 days of engaging in or giving instructions with respect to the receipt, payment or transfer of funds. If, however, you are unable to verify the client’s identity after taking all reasonable steps, you will not be in breach of this requirement but you must document the steps you took.