Manulife Becomes First CDN Insurer Offering All Group Claims Submissions Through Online, Mobile

Manulife today announced an enhanced plan member experience designed for greater convenience. Users can now submit any Group Benefits claims, including disability claims, using the channel most convenient for them through Manulife’s new Group Benefits homepage and mobile app.

“The newly designed plan member homepage brings the most important information to the forefront, where plan members can easily and efficiently transact with Manulife in the way they want to,” said Donna Carbell, Senior Vice President, Group Benefits at Manulife. “The Manulife Mobile app and new homepage are important steps in the digital evolution of the customer experience that make the process easier and save members time so they can focus on the things that are important to them.”

Manulife Mobile uses fingerprint recognition and is available now for iPhone and Android devices. It allows users to:

  • Submit any type of Group Benefits claims
  • Review recent claims and payment information
  • Sign-in with fingerprint access or with their username and password
  • See their benefit balances and access their benefits card
  • Find health care providers in their area
  • Search My drug plan to find the lowest cost alternative drugs; and
  • Find places to get their prescriptions for less with Pharmacy savings search

The Manulife Mobile app is also available to Group Retirement Solutions (GRS) plan members who can:

  • Check account balances and investment mix
  • Review their transactions
  • View all contributions made to their plan
  • See their rates of return
  • Use calculators and learning tools to help them plan and increase their financial knowledge

“Manulife set out to develop a digital experience that not only makes people’s lives easier, but also delivers value for plan sponsors,” added Carbell. “This new solution will help maintain a productive workforce and keep their employees happy. It’s one more way Manulife is committed to putting customers first.”

About Manulife

Manulife Financial Corporation is a leading international financial services group that helps people achieve their dreams and aspirations by putting customers’ needs first and providing the right advice and solutions. We operate as John Hancock in the United States and Manulife elsewhere. We provide financial advice, insurance, as well as wealth and asset management solutions for individuals, groups and institutions. At the end of 2016, we had approximately 35,000 employees, 70,000 agents, and thousands of distribution partners, serving more than 22 million customers. As of June 30, 2017, we had over $1 trillion (US$780 billion) in assets under management and administration, and in the previous 12 months we made $26.7 billion in payments to our customers. Our principal operations are in AsiaCanada and the United States where we have served customers for more than 100 years. With our global headquarters in Toronto, Canada, we trade as ‘MFC’ on the TorontoNew York, and the Philippine stock exchanges and under ‘945’ in Hong Kong.

SOURCE Manulife Financial Corporation

Equifax data breach a ‘digital disaster’ for Canadians

By David Shipley, CBC News

The fallout of the Equifax data breach is going to be felt by companies, individuals and government for years to come.

This digital disaster will cause millions of people significant stress as they are dragged into a near never-ending battle with identity thieves.

It will cost billions to contain, and attempt to clean-up, and the proceeds of the crime will throw even more fuel onto the roaring fire that is global cybercrime.

What is Equifax and what happened?

Equifax is one of the big four credit bureaus — they rank a person’s worthiness to receive credit — things like car loans, mortgages, credit cards or sometimes even services such as telephone, cable and, in the US, even health care.

Their database includes personally identifiable information — names, addresses and most crucially, data like social security numbers in the US or social insurance numbers in Canada.

‘Companies aren’t yet required to report data breaches or disclose any information about such breaches. We are severely lagging behind many countries in this regard … ‘— David Shipley

In May, an unknown group successfully breached Equifax’s online services by exploiting a vulnerability in their web servers.

A software fix, called a patch for the vulnerability, had been available in March but was not put in place. Equifax only reported the breach last week. As many as 143 million Americans and reportedly as many as 44 million people in the UK are affected.

As of this weekend, all we know about Canada is that some people are affected, but no idea exactly how many or how much personal information has been compromised.

Reportedly 10,000 Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) subscribers in Canada have been notified that their information was included in the breach.

Why don’t we know more?

To be honest, it’s the result of gaping holes in Canada’s privacy legislation.

Companies aren’t yet required to report data breaches or disclose any information about such breaches. We are severely lagging behind many countries in this regard including the U.S. but leagues behind leaders like Europe.

We’ve passed some laws in 2015 regarding breach reporting, but haven’t brought the required regulations to support the law into force yet.

‘Firms of the size of Equifax aren’t going to change their behaviour for $100,000 fines,’ says Shipley.

Canada’s federal privacy commission issued a statement on Tuesday urging Equifax to provide this information to Canadians, pointedly noting they were first notified of the breach through media reports and have been “seized” with this issue.

The Commissioner says Equifax is “cooperating” with their office.

The privacy commissioner also took the unusual step of recommending Canadians not use the U.S. website Equifax has set up as it is only designed for use with U.S. Social Security numbers.

The new regulations under Canada’s digital privacy act will help a bit — they have fines of up to $100,000 for failing to report a breach like this, but fixed fines such as that have little impact on massive corporations.

What Canada should be doing?

Canada should move to adopt new European regulations called the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR.

Fines under those rules can run up to $30 million Canadian or 4% of revenues, whichever is higher.

Those are numbers that are causing firms that do business in Europe to stand up, take notice, fix shoddy products and services and pay more attention to defending against attackers.

Firms the size of Equifax aren’t going to change their behaviour for $100,000 fines.

The bigger you are the easier you fall

Breaches such as what happened to Equifax happen every day for a combination of reasons ranging from people falling victim to scam e-mails, to delays in properly updating or patching software or servers, to not investing in appropriate security technologies or audits.

What many people don’t know or realize is that large firms have something called technical debt.

Technical debt begins to accrue when you build a new complex IT system — say a system for gathering and sharing people’s credit scores. Companies invest millions or even billions to build these systems and then launch them.

‘Sadly, there’s not much Canadians who now have to live with the mess created by the breach can do to prevent something awful from happening to their finances,’ says Shipley. ((iStock))

But over time, the technology ages.

If firms aren’t careful, the system they built can become vulnerable as more and more flaws are found in it over time.

If they don’t fix those bugs or flaws — which may cause further issues and can be time consuming, expensive or cause service outages — then as time goes on the probability of a data breach increases dramatically.

What can Canadians do?

Sadly, there’s not much Canadians who now have to live with the mess created by the breach can do to prevent something awful from happening to their finances.

Credit monitoring services help, but they can’t stop identity theft. They can only alert you that it’s happened or at best, in-progress.

Some of the better credit monitoring or identity theft services can go a bit further by assisting in recovering your identity and paying some of the legal costs, but at the end of the day a lot of stress and harm can be caused by a data breach.

‘The bigger, longer-term issue that the Equifax breach has cast a spotlight on is the obsolescence of the social insurance number … ‘— David Shipley

In the U.S., there is an option for a credit freeze, though it can cost you money and take many steps to get in place.

Americans can ask the four major credit bureaus including Equifax not to provide their information to anyone, which will stop anyone from trying to get a car loan or credit in their name if the financial institution or service provider requires a credit check.

But that option really doesn’t exist in Canada.

Some of the bureaus do allow you to flag your account requiring additional ID or someone to contact you to approve any new credit applications, which may be helpful, but not all have that option and it’s not something that’s easy to figure out.

Moving past the SIN

The bigger, longer-term issue that the Equifax breach has cast a spotlight on is the obsolescence of the social insurance number and the need for a new secure form of unique personal digital identifier for government and commercial services.

We have to stop using a nearly 50-year-old approach that just doesn’t work in a 21st-century digital environment that’s full of cyber threats.

Efforts such as New Brunswick’s experiments to create a new secure digital ID are a step in the right direction.

A $500,000 lesson in how to fight identity theft

 | The Globe and Mail

Identity thieves once stole a total $500,000 by pretending to be Jennifer Fiddian-Green.

Her story is worth hearing if you want to understand the risks that arise when your personal information is stolen. We’re told endlessly to keep our data private so identity thieves can’t get it. But a data breach at the credit monitoring company Equifax highlights the way people can be vulnerable through no fault of their own.

Ms. Fiddian-Green, a forensic accountant at Grant Thornton LLP, isn’t sure how her personal information was stolen back in 2006. But she does know the thieves were able to secure two mortgages in her name that netted them the $500,000.

In investigating her own case, she learned that the thieves tried to borrow money at 12 or more financial companies. “Ten times, these institutions said ‘no, this is not a good application, get rid of it,'” she said. “But two of them [a bank and a mortgage lender] let it go through.” She realized this only after one of the lenders came looking for repayment.

Equifax has been rightly slammed for its vagueness about how many Canadians were affected by a cyberattack against the Atlanta-based company and the extent to which their private information has been compromised. On Monday afternoon, the company’s website said that only a limited number of Canadians may have been affected, and “it seems” at this point that the information possibly breached includes names, addresses and social insurance numbers.

According to the RCMP, personal information can be used to open bank accounts, apply for loans and credit cards and make purchases, among other things. “If a fraudster is successful in using your data to obtain financing, you could quickly be overwhelmed by the number of accounts and the dollars that are out there,” Ms. Fiddian-Green said.

As a cybersecurity expert, she was able to convince the duped mortgage lenders that they were fraud victims. Now, she has some thoughts on helping others understand identity theft and how to fight it.

To start, people need to understand that the data kept by credit monitoring companies such as Equifax and competitor TransUnion is enough to enable thieves to borrow money or set up accounts in your name. These firms are clearinghouses for data on how people are keeping up with their borrowing – they take in information from financial companies and sell it back to these firms to help with decisions on whether to lend money, and at what rate. You should certainly check your credit file to monitor for fraudulent activity. But there’s also some onus on banks, credit card companies and other lenders to make sure they’re lending to actual customers and not thieves.

Expect to find out by letter, phone call or contact from a debt collection agency if you’re a victim of thieves who have used your identity to borrow money. Ms. Fiddian-Green’s suggested response: “You need to say no, I was not a party to this. I’ll help you figure out the fraud that was conducted on you and your institution using my data.”

Scott Terrio of insolvency trustees Cooper & Co. says people are legally responsible for debts in their name. “But if it’s true fraud, then you’re not legally obliged to pay it. The trick is to prove that it wasn’t you.”

One way to do that is to demonstrate the fraudulent expense or borrowing is not in keeping with your usual pattern of spending. Mr. Terrio notes that credit card companies use fraud detection software that looks for deviations from your usual spending. In the fraud cases he’s seen, banks and card issuers have typically been co-operative in identifying identity theft.

Equifax is pushing a $19.95-a-month service on its website that monitors your credit file and can help detect identity theft. But you can also order a free credit report from both Equifax and its competitor TransUnion. Just google Equifax Canada or TransUnion Canada and “free credit report.”

Some financial firms also provide credit reports to their clients. For example, Royal Bank of Canada clients who bank online can now access their credit score and a credit file showing all their existing accounts and inquiries made by lenders. Scan all of this information for unauthorized activity and contact the firm involved if you find anything.

Even after her experience several years back, Ms. Fiddian-Green says she wouldn’t take Equifax up on its credit-monitoring service. “I refuse to pay to have them tell me they’re taking care of my data.”

What to do when a hurricane blows away your vacation plans

By Beth J. Harpaz

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

What do you do when a hurricane blows away your vacation plans? The Associated Press asked Pauline Frommer of Frommers.com and the Frommer travel guidebook series for advice.

WHERE TO START

Frommer says it all depends on “how you booked that vacation.” If you booked an air-hotel package through Expedia, contact Expedia. If you booked it “a la carte” booking hotel, cruise and airfare separately on your own contact each vendor or company separately.

HOW ABOUT REFUNDS?

If you’re going to a Caribbean island that suffered some damage but the hotel reopens, Frommer says you’re likely not going to catch a break.

On the other hand,  “If you’re going to a place that seems like it’s been blown off the map, like sadly St. Martin, you may have a better chance of getting a refund,” she said.

Often travel providers try to “get you to shift your plans.” Many of the cruise lines are announcing they’ll still go to the Caribbean but just to a different island than originally planned.

“If you’ve already been to those Caribbean islands and you were hoping to see ones that are not currently accepting visitors, you may be out of luck,” she said. There are also cases where seven-night cruises are reduced to four-night cruises and cruise lines seem to be giving money back in those cases.

For cancelled cruises,  “they’re giving not only full refunds but depending on the cruise lines, they’re giving a little extra: 25 per cent off another cruise or 50 per cent.”

Airline policy is. “fluid,” Frommer said, with some waiving change fees for future travel if you rebook before a certain deadline, allowing you to apply the cost of the flight you no longer want to a new destination. But details vary, so contact the airline.

Be prepared to spend time online or on the phone. “Patience will be a real virtue right now,” Frommer said. If you booked through a travel agency, they may be able to make those changes for you. As a last resort, “contact your credit card company. They may be able to duke it out for you.”

HOTELS, HOME RENTALS AND THIRD-PARTY SITES

If you booked a home rental and made a deposit through a site like Homeaway.com or VRBO.com, they “act as the middleman” and “set up lines to help you get through to the individual owners,” Frommer said. “They’re not going to get you your money back but they are trying to facilitate communications. … However they will not step in if you can’t get your security deposit back.”

WHAT? NO REFUND IF WE PAID FOR LODGING IN ADVANCE?

“That’s a lesson we’re all learning,” Frommer said. “It’s in their contracts that usually they’re off the hook for all but the most egregious of circumstances, for example, if it’s a scam and there’s no home there. But with natural disasters, there’s often an act of God clause that means they do not owe you anything when things go horrifically wrong on a huge scale.”

Again, Frommer said, “it all depends on how you booked.” If you made a reservation with no money down, “you should be able to cancel without penalty.” But if you paid in advance for a discount on a hotel booking website,  “you could be on the hook.”

TRAVEL INSURANCE

“The majority of travel insurance policies will cover you in those cases if you’re travelling and the place is unsafe,” Frommer said. But “you cannot buy the insurance after the storm has been announced. Once it’s on the radar, you’re out of luck.”

Insurance may also fail to kick in if the hotel reopens even if the “beach is gone and the trees are down and all of its neighbours are in rubble. … If you can get there and stay there safely, it’s considered your vacation, even if it’s not the vacation of your dreams.”

CAA says 10,000 consumers could be Equifax hack victims

By Armina Ligaya and David Hodges

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ The Canadian Automobile Association says it is informing about 10,000 of its members that they may have had sensitive data compromised by the massive Equifax cybersecurity breach.

The CAA said Thursday Equifax was its partner on the auto organization’s identity protection program, which began in March 2015 and was terminated on July 1, weeks before Equifax discovered the hack on July. 29.

The program required members to register their personal information such as credit cards, banking information and email address, with the option of providing a social insurance number.

The organization says it has been trying since the first reports of the Equifax breach surfaced to determine if it affects any of the approximately 10,000 CAA members who signed up for the program.

It says Equifax has not provided any answers so far. Equifax Canada did not respond to requests from The Canadian Press.

“We value our members’ privacy. Our contract with Equifax explicitly said customer data would be governed by Canada’s privacy law, PIPEDA, and we chose them as a partner because of their then high reputation. CAA did not handle or retain any of the information provided to Equifax,” said Ian Jack, CAA managing director of communications and government relations.

“We are informing the affected members that the data they shared with Equifax may have been compromised, and are writing Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner to express our concern about this breach and to ask that they push Equifax to provide more information to Canadians.”

Meanwhile, Canadians who are worried they might be victims of the Equifax Inc. hack say they are being treated as an afterthought in the wake of one of the largest online data breaches in history.

The company has provided consumers in the U.S. with a website that shows whether they are at risk of identity theft and is allowing them to monitor their files for free for one year.

But the online database does not provide Canadians with accurate information because it is based on U.S. social security numbers. The Equifax Canada website says it costs $19.95 per month for the same monitoring service.

Toronto lawyer Frances Macklin said she is frustrated that Canadians are being treated worse than their U.S. counterparts and questioned why there isn’t a dedicated portal for consumers north of the border.

“We’re equally affected. Just because I don’t have a social security number, I don’t get access to information,” said the partner at Gowlings law firm. “I’m completely bewildered by that.”

Equifax Inc. said last Thursday that a security breach occurred over the summer that compromised the private information of up to 143 million Americans, along with an undisclosed number of Canadians.

But the company has not provided further details, including how many Canadians may have been exposed. Equifax Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

However, Equifax Canada’s customer service agents have told callers that only Canadians who have had dealings in the United States are likely to have had their information compromised in the data breach.

The credit monitoring company’s call centre staff said that Canadians who have Equifax accounts in the U.S. could be at risk of having their data compromised, such as those who have lived, worked or applied for credit south of the border.

Equifax Canada’s website says that “only a limited number of Canadians may have been affected” and it is working to find out how many.

It adds that personal information that may have been breached includes names, address and Social Insurance Number and “the breach is contained.”

Robert Johnson, lead plaintiff in a proposed class action lawsuit against Equifax Canada filed in Saskatchewan, said he is upset that Canadians have only been told that a limited number have been compromised.

The Regina business analyst said he trusted them with his personal information and does not understand why it is taking so long to provide more information about the hack.

Communications expert Warren Weeks believes Equifax could not have handled this issue in a worse way.

“We’re talking about the gateway to all of your financial information in your life,” said Weeks, who is the principal of communication firm Weeks Media Group.

“And Canadians, in specific, don’t know if they’ve been targeted or not or they’ve been impacted or not? I think in 2017, that’s unacceptable.”

IBC launches ‘Know Your Policy’ consumer awareness campaign

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is pleased to launch ‘Know Your Policy’, an online campaign designed to promote insurance literacy among Canadian consumers.

“A car collision, a home damaged by wind or hail and a business interrupted by vandalism or floods are risks that people face each day,” said Sally Turney, Vice-President, Communications, IBC. “After a loss happens, everyday life can change in many different ways. Now is the time to know your policy and better protect yourself.”

In a series of online tips and videos across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, IBC will educate consumers on the importance of insurance, how to start a claim, how to buy insurance, and where they can go with insurance-related questions. This campaign will also help make sense of coverage limits, deductibles, and other complex policy items that all consumers should be familiar with.

“As consumers, we often invest a significant amount of time researching purchases for household or personal items than we do researching our insurance products,” added Turney. “For those who have insurance this campaign is designed to help consumers better understand why they should know what their policy covers. If you don’t have insurance for your car, home or business, now is the time to ask questions and protect your most-valuable assets.”

Consumers should contact their insurance representatives to review existing policies, or to start new ones.  Consumers should also talk to their insurers about any questions they might have and to make sure they are properly covered. In addition, they can also contact IBC’s consumer information centres across Canada by calling 1-844-2ASK-IBC.

Additional resources

About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $49 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureauor like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada 

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