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Anti money laundering centre crunches data in fight against fentanyl

By Jim Bronskill

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ Canada’s anti-money laundering agency is helping fight the scourge of fentanyl by tracing the illicit movement of funds tied to the deadly drug.

Barry MacKillop, interim director of the federal Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre, says the agency has passed intelligence about the dangerous opioid to law-enforcement partners.

Just this week, the financial data-crunching agency, known as Fintrac, was cited for its role in uncovering a Calgary-based trafficking network, leading to the seizure of more than $4 million worth of drugs, including fentanyl.

The agency tries to pinpoint cash linked to money laundering and terrorism by sifting through tens of millions of pieces of information annually from banks, insurance companies, securities dealers, money service businesses, real estate brokers, casinos and others.

Fintrac’s annual report, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, says the agency made 2,015 disclosures of intelligence in 2016-17 to partners including Canada’s spy agency, the RCMP and other police services up from 1,655 the year before.

Of the latest disclosures, 1,366 were related to money laundering, 462 involved terrorism and threats to national security, and 187 involved all of these.

Fintrac has been working for months with police and the many institutions that supply reports about suspicious dealings to come up with common signs of fentanyl trafficking, MacKillop said in an interview.

“It is a challenge to identify the indicators that are specific to fentanyl versus heroin or cocaine or any other type of drug.”

However, source countries for various drugs differ, so geographical analysis of transactions can be helpful, he added.

Authorities have identified China as a leading source of opioids entering Canada.

Fintrac’s analysis played a role in the investigation of Kevin Omar Mohamed, a former Ontario resident who pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge for travelling to Syria with the aim of joining an extremist group.

Amid the flagging fortunes of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Canadian security agencies are focusing on the possible return of dozens of young Canadians who headed overseas to fight alongside militants.

Fintrac is looking to see what type of intelligence it can generate on returnees, MacKillop said. “If we see dormant accounts, for example, that all of a sudden become reactivated, that may be an indicator.”

Last year, financial institutions committed to focusing on the tracking of money laundering associated with human trafficking in the sex trade.

The agency received about 2,000 suspicious transaction reports from businesses across Canada during the 2016 calendar year relating to these efforts an increase of 400 per cent from the previous year, the annual report says. “The reports came from all the major banks and a number of money services businesses.”

Indicators of human trafficking for sexual exploitation include purchases of short-term stays at hotels, back-page ads for escort services, and after-hours credit card payments at strip clubs, massage parlours and modelling agencies.

Another priority for Fintrac is working with institutions to develop a stream of tips that could help uncover illicit fund movements tied to mass-marketing fraud _ both the garden-variety spam campaigns that dupe the most vulnerable and more sophisticated schemes involving market manipulation and insider trading, MacKillop said.

Fintrac has made a number of disclosures to enforcement agencies related to tax evasion, though the information is not necessarily related to the leaked files known as the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, he said.

The Canada Revenue Agency has the federal lead on examining the papers and will determine whether Fintrac can be of assistance, MacKillop added.

Aviva Fraud Report 2017: “Crash, Cash and Backlash”

Canadians from coast to coast are deeply concerned about the amount of money that cheaters are draining out of the auto insurance system. They want to fight fraud to lower the premiums paid by honest drivers, a new report finds.

Crash, Cash and Backlash: Aviva Fraud Report 2017” was issued today by Aviva Canada as the first in a series of annual reports on insurance fraud, an issue that plagues honest Canadians everywhere.  While there is fraud in auto, home and business insurance this report focuses on auto insurance fraud. Fraud is not a victimless crime.

“Honest consumers are paying out of pocket an estimated $2 billion a year in added costs for criminal frauds being perpetrated on the auto insurance system. It’s time to fight back. This report shows that Canadians agree with us,” said Greg Somerville,  President and CEO, Aviva Canada.

Aviva Canada is fighting fraud on behalf of all those honest  drivers who are paying higher premiums to fund the fraudulent activities of a small minority of individuals ripping off the system. We asked Canadians what they thought about auto insurance fraud issues, and the message you sent us in our national public opinion poll came across loud and clear,” Mr. Somerville added.

Key findings of the Aviva Fraud Report 2017

  • 81% of Canadians feel that the increase in their insurance premiums is due to fraudulent vehicle repairs, vehicle theft or personal injury claims.
  • 67% feel that cracking down on fraud would reduce their current auto insurance premiums.
  • 77% are supportive of government agencies and law enforcement allocating more time and resources to policing and prosecuting Canadians who have submitted fraudulent claims.
  • 50% of Canadians believe there is too much advertising encouraging people to use personal injury lawyers; meanwhile 60% believe that personal injury lawyers are required in only a “small number of cases.”

The answer to fighting fraud

This fraud report outlines what is wrong with the current system. The clear conclusion is that no one can solve this problem on their own. Everyone has a role to play.

  • Insurers need to take a zero tolerance approach to fraud in order to protect honest policy holders.
  • Consumers can avoid being a victim of fraud by recognizing and reporting suspected fraud. The report outlines specific tips for consumers.
  • Provincial governments need to actively partner in the fight against fraud. Provincial regulators should have a clear mandate to work with the insurance industry to fight fraud. More resources need to be dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of fraud. The trend of light consequences needs to be reversed.

Others tend to agree
“Aviva’s Fraud Report clearly demonstrates that Canadians believe fraud is a significant and growing problem and much more needs to be done about it,” said Ben Kosic, CEO, CANATICS.

“Aviva has campaigned to remove fraud from the system for many years. Consumers have told us with certainty that the system is not working in their interests. I agree. They will pay less for insurance if we fight fraud. Let’s attack this problem together,” concluded Mr. Somerville.

Notes to editors

  • The Aviva Fraud Report 2017, produced 100 per cent digitally and paper-free, is available here.
  • The report’s survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights through online interviews with 1,502 Canadians from all 10 provinces, conducted in October 2017 and is considered accurate within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

About Aviva Canada

Aviva Canada Inc. is one of the leading property and casualty insurance groups in the country providing home, automobile, leisure/lifestyle and business insurance to 2.9 million customers. A wholly-owned subsidiary of UK-based Aviva plc, the company has more than 4,000 employees focused on creating a bright and sustainable future for their customers and communities.

Aviva Canada invests in positive change through the Aviva Community Fund, Canada’s longest running online community funding competition. Since its inception in 2009, the Aviva Community Fund has awarded $7.5 million to over 250 charities and community groups nationwide. Aviva Canada, bringing over 300 years of good thinking and insurance solutions to Canadians from coast-to-coast.

For more information visit avivacanada.com, the company’s blog or TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn pages.

SOURCE Aviva Canada Inc.

Uber hack latest example of why vigilance required to keep your wallet safe

By Craig Wong

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ When Doug Hoyes had his credit card information stolen, fraudsters used it to pay for three taxi rides in Toronto.

He wasn’t in that city, but discovered the charges while routinely checking his card transactions online and notified his bank, which cancelled the card.

Hoyes, a licensed insolvency trustee, says the incident illustrates the importance for individuals to keep a watchful eye on their statements in a world where financial information can be stolen in a myriad of ways.

“I realize that the bank will probably cover you anyways, so you’re not going to lose any money, but do you really want to wait until they’ve used up your credit limit and you’re trying to put gas in your car and you can’t because you’re over your limit?”

Earlier this week, ride-hailing company Uber came clean about a year-old hack that compromised the data of 57 million Uber riders. The information stolen included names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers. The number of Canadians affected was not immediately known.

News of the security breach comes just two months after Equifax Inc. said some 145 million consumers _including roughly 8,000 Canadians _ had personal data, and in some cases credit card details, stolen by hackers in a massive data breach earlier this year.

The thefts were the latest in what has become a regular occurrence of hackers breaking into systems and stealing customer information.

While individual pieces of information like the email addresses and mobile phone numbers that were taken in the Uber theft may seem innocuous on their own, when thieves combine it with other information that may be available elsewhere, it can spell trouble.

But even if you weren’t affected by the Uber or Equifax data breaches _or any others so far _ you need to be vigilant because hacks are going to happen, he added.

“If you weren’t impacted by this one, you probably will be impacted by the next one.”

If your information is hacked, you need to change your passwords and your PINs to something that is not easily guessed, advises Lynne Santerre, a spokeswoman for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Santerre added that if you’ve been compromised you should also contact the major credit bureaus and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your file.

“That tells lenders to contact you before approving any application for credit in your name,” she said.

“So if anyone is trying to take out credit in your name, you’ll get a phone call and you’ll be able to confirm whether that application was yours.”

Hoyes noted that much of the job of securing your information online isn’t up to you, but rather the companies storing it. But, he added, there are still things you can do such as reviewing credit card transactions and cancelling any credit you don’t need.

Both Hoyes and Santerre recommend regularly checking your credit report with the two major agencies in Canada _ Equifax and TransUnion.

Checking your credit report can tip you off if your information was stolen because you will see if there are any accounts you don’t know about that may have been opened fraudulently.

Hoyes also advised against giving out your social insurance number unless required because the more information that is out there, the more at risk you become.

If your card issuer offers you an alert service that sends you a message when your card is used, it can be a great way to keep an eye on charges. But, Hoyes added, it’s not enough to rely on the fraud protection systems at your bank.

“You’ve got to be in charge,” he said. “You’ve got to take responsibility here and be looking at these things on a regular basis.”

President of National Brokers Insurance Services awarded 2017 Canada’s Most Powerful Women

This prestigious distinction celebrates the incredible accomplishments of Canada’s top female executive talent as well as their organizations and networks.

On November 23rd at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Usher-Mesiano accepts the Entrepreneur Award, honouring women who operate successful businesses. WXN is Canada’s leading organization dedicated to the advancement and recognition of women in management, executive, professional and board roles. Usher-Mesiano also accepted this award in 2016.

“I am deeply honoured to represent my team and to be included in such an esteemed group of women,” says Joyce Usher-Mesiano, after being named a Women’s Executive Network (WXN) 2017 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner.

The “Unbreakable” theme of this year’s Leadership Summit and Awards Gala focuses on how we are made stronger for persevering through periods of challenge and come out the other side with a more powerful sense of purpose and drive.

“We have focused on integration, innovation, empowerment, experience and a strong sense of the community to best share the knowledge we have gained and our dedication to our customers.”

Usher-Mesiano leads 4 Canadian organizations: 1) National Brokers Insurance Services Inc. – helping companies/individuals develop innovative insurance strategies to create a successful/protected business and protect personal assets/liabilities (notable brands PharmaCover, Bloom Insurance, Platinum, BRISK) 2) National Union Insurance Group Inc. – developing niche insurance coverage for unions and associations 3) Monarch Intermediaries Inc.– providing second medical opinion reports within 5 days from top academic medical centres for those who are seriously ill or require surgery 4) Charitable fund co-founder of The BEfund (Butterfly Effect) – a small movement that will have a profound effect on the future of lung cancer care and awareness.

The full list of 2017 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winners can be found at www.wxnetwork.com/top-100/top-100-winners

National Brokers Insurance Services Inc. is a leading Canadian full-service insurance brokerage
that specializes in providing custom-tailored solutions for organizations and individuals with commercial, personal, group and specialty needs. More information and details are available at 
www.nationalbrokers.com.       

SOURCE National Brokers Insurance Services Inc.

Canadians head into Black Friday ready to shop, unprepared for more debt

Manulife Bank survey reveals that despite claiming to understand debt management, many Canadians aren’t meeting debt reduction goals and feel unsupported by their banks

  • Knowledge doesn’t cut it: More than half of Canadians claim good knowledge of debt management (54%), however, household debt has reached record highs1 and only a minority (41%) are comfortable with their debt
  • Need for allies: Only one in six Canadians believe their bank helps them pay down debt (16%) and puts their needs first (17%); however, those with advisors are 60% more likely to be satisfied with overall financial health
  • Missing the mark: Many Canadians say being debt-free is a priority; however, less than a third of debtholders (31%) achieved debt reduction goals in the past year
  • Debt impacts health: Most Canadians (53%) believe financial challenges take a toll on mental or emotional health, and a third (34%) on physical health
  • Silent treatment: More than 30 per cent of Canadians are embarrassed or unsure of whom to talk to, and 55 per cent seldom talk about own debt with friends or family

TORONTONov. 23, 2017 /CNW/ – Canadians will tap, swipe and click their way through Black Friday, Cyber Monday and into the holiday shopping season under a cloud of debt, despite a majority claiming they know how to manage debt (54%) and saying they are committed to becoming debt free (64%).

While being debt-free is a priority (64%) according to a survey released by Manulife Bank of Canada, Canadian household debt-to-income is at record levels2. While almost half of debtholders surveyed (44%) said they had reduced their debt burden over the past year, (31%) actually met their debt reduction goals.

“When it comes to debt, knowledge alone does not equal power,” said Rick Lunny, President and CEO of Manulife Bank. “There is a clear gap between what Canadians say they know about managing debt, their good intentions, and their ability to do something about it.”

Nearly one-quarter (24%) of Canadians also said they are embarrassed to talk about how much debt they have. Nearly 40 per cent could not say they knew whom to talk to about debt management, while more than half said they seldom have the conversation with friends or family (55%).

 Lack of confidence and looking for help

Canadians lack confidence in their bank’s willingness and ability to help with debt. While more than seven in ten (71%) would like to be more confident about financial decisions and most look for guidance from their banks to help pay down debt, only a small number actually believe their bank helps them reduce debt (16%) and makes their interests a priority (17%). However, 46 per cent of respondents said they simply do not know how their bank could help.

This despite many Canadians recognizing the link between health and wealth. Nearly nine in ten (88%) said financial issues impact other areas of individuals’ lives and that financial wellness positively impacts overall health and productivity at work. In addition, three-quarters believe financial literacy and support is key to avoiding financial issues, and that having access to financial counselling is beneficial.

However, more than half (53%) said financial challenges impact mental or emotional health, while more than a third (34%) also considered impacts to physical health.

“There is a very strong connection between health and wealth. People should feel confident that they have allies when it comes to managing and reducing debt. Beginning to talk about debt, especially with a financial advisor, is a very important first step. Canadians who do not have a financial advisor are encouraged to seek out somebody they can trust,” says Lunny.

Approximately half of those surveyed expressed satisfaction with their overall financial health (47%); most satisfied were those who worked with financial advisors (59%) in contrast to those without (36%).

Differences between homeowners and renters

Among more than half (54%) of Canadians claiming good knowledge of debt management, homeowners (60%) are significantly more likely than renters (42%) to say they do. Homeowners also indicated different financial priorities than renters, focusing more on savings and investments rather than preparing for unexpected expenses or interruptions of income.

For homeowners carrying mortgages, the key factor in choosing a mortgage was the interest rate. More than half (56%) of respondents put this on the top of their priority list, while only 11 per cent said the ability to pay down their mortgage as fast as possible was most important.

Mortgage holders also reported not having a very good knowledge of critical information, such as the consequences of missing a payment. One in ten were not certain on who their mortgage provider was.

The average level of mortgage debt has remained relatively steady at approximately $200,000 since Manulife Bank last surveyed Canadians in February 2017.

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