At least two dozen Kamloops residents are afraid they might become victims of identity theft after the federal government misplaced their private information.
And many of those now say they're joining a class action lawsuit against the government.
"I don't care if you hand me $2 at the end of it all," said Donna Hartt about her decision to join the lawsuit. "It's just saying, 'This is a mistake that's been made.' We don't even know if the person's been held accountable for this mistake."
The locals say they received letters in January stating they are among 583,000 student loan recipients throughout the country whose private information was "misplaced" last November when Human Resources and Development Canada lost an external hard drive and USB key.
The contents of the lost hard drive included dates of birth, social insurance numbers and addresses for student loans issued between 2000 and 2006.
The HRDC letter informs recipients that they were among those impacted and if they believe they've been defrauded, they should call a toll-free number.
The letter does not, however, contain an apology, said recipient Jackie Barrett.
Carley Aspen Gillis is also planning to join the lawsuit. She's said when she received the letter, she was shocked and at a loss as to where to turn.
"What am I going to do?" said Gillis. "And why was that personal information even on a portable device when it's not supposed to be shared?"
When letter recipients call the government, they're asked for consent to flag credit reports for the next six years to ensure credit changes, loans or any such activity is legitimate.
That provides little solace to Hartt, who fears she'll have to justify herself for every financial move she makes for the next six years. Yet she also wonders if it's enough.
"Somebody's got the back-up hard drive out there that they can pull up at any point in time."
That's exactly the concern of Branch MacMaster, one of the law firms filing a class action suit.
"A social insurance number is something that stays with you your entire life," said lawyer Greg McMullen. "So we're quite concerned about that and we're looking into how long the appropriate credit flagging or additional credit monitoring would be."
McMullen recommends those impacted call Equifax or TransUnion to get their free credit reports to ensure there's nothing unusual like mysterious applications for accounts, credit cards, lines of credit or cellphones.
They should also be extra vigilant for odd credit card purchases, mail they weren't anticipating or password reset requests for online bank accounts.
McMullen said Branch MacMaster is still weighing the impact of the data breach. They are calculating actual theft right down to the amount of time individuals must spend on the phone straightening things out.
A January press release stating Branch MacMaster had joined two other Toronto firms in the class action lawsuit suggested a figure of $600 million.
McMullen said 25,000 people have contacted his firm so far, primarily through the website www.studentloansclassaction.com. The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of everyone impacted whether they sign up or not, he said.
The website is for anyone wishing to get involved, to be kept up to date as the suit proceeds or to find out what steps they should take to ensure they benefit from a claim, he said.
Anyone who received a student loan between 2000 and 2006 but hasn't heard from the HRDC can call 1-866-885-1866 with their social insurance number to determine whether they are among those affected.
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod called the breach of privacy "completely unacceptable."
"The minister is very concerned and has apologized," she said.
A parliamentary committee has been formed to look into what happened and a privacy commissioner investigation is underway.
"I think it's important to note that there's been no evidence of fraudulent activity resulting from this instance," she said.
McLeod acknowledged there will be a cost to monitoring half a million credit reports over the next six years. But the government is obligated to provide some protection.