February/Valentine’s Day is a busy time for car insurance fraud TIPS Line

While February might be considered the month of love, increased activity to Manitoba Public Insurance’s TIPS Line suggests otherwise.

“Last year, February was the busiest month for tip calls,” said Curtis Wennberg, Chief Operating Officer, Manitoba Public Insurance. “I suppose nothing says ‘I don’t love you anymore’ than by placing a call to the anti-fraud TIPS Line.

“While all calls to the TIPS Line are anonymous, some callers will admit to being an ex-spouse or ex-partner of a person allegedly defrauding the Corporation. We can only speculate that emotions of past romantic relationships are triggered by increased talk about Valentine’s Day. Regardless of the reason, MPI is very appreciative of their help.”

Over the last five years (2015-2019), on average, there has been an increase of calls placed to the TIPS Line during February. Overall, 2019 was a record year for tips to the line with a total of 594 compared to 439 in 2018 ─ a 35 per cent increase.

Information gathered from calls to the TIPS Line is carefully reviewed in order to separate legitimate calls from frivolous calls to ensure innocent customers are not impacted. Manitoba’s public auto insurer saved more than $700,000 in 2019 as the result of information gained from calls to the TIPS Line. MPI estimates that fraud costs its ratepayers about $50 per year.

Suspicious claims are handled by MPI’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU). The efforts of this special unit resulted in claims savings last year of more than $10 million for MPI rate payers. The SIU closed more than 1,200 investigations in 2019. In addition to the TIPS Line, Manitoba Public Insurance receives information about possible fraudsters from employees, police agencies, or Manitoba Crime Stoppers.

No matter the month or special occasion, anyone with information about auto insurance fraud is encouraged to call the Manitoba Public Insurance TIPS Line: 204-985-8477 or toll-free 1-877-985-8477. All calls are anonymous.

Ins and outs of travel insurance amid novel coronavirus outbreak

VANCOUVER _ Travellers nervous about globe-trotting during the novel coronavirus outbreak may be eligible to receive a refund for cancelling their travels, say insurance experts, but it depends on the destination, their insurance policy and other factors.

“I think in any case of sort of an epidemic like this, it’s really an evolving situation and every day is different, something new happens,” said Joan Weir, director of health and disability policy for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. CLHIA represents 99 per cent of the country’s life and health insurance companies, according to its website.

Travel insurers watch the unfolding situation very carefully, she said, and the association is frequently checking in with all its members about what they’re experiencing.

There are now more than 31,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, according to the World Health Organization.

The bulk of these are in China, where there have also been 637 deaths. Across 24 other countries, there are 270 confirmed cases and one death. There are five confirmed cases in Canada.

The WHO declared the outbreak a global health emergency in late January.

The Canadian government issued a Level 3 advisory for China, asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel. There is only one higher level, which advises travellers to avoid all travel.

The government recommends people avoid travelling to Hubei Province, where Wuhan city is located. The province has recorded 22,112 of China’s 31,211 coronavirus cases, according to the WHO.

As soon as the Canadian government declares a Level 3 or 4 travel advisory, a person may cancel their upcoming trip and their insurance should cover any lost expenses, said Weir.

“You’d have to submit receipts,” she said, but travellers should receive refunds for flights, hotels and other costs.

Trips booked before the government issues these advisories are often covered by travel insurance, said an emailed statement from the insurance company RSA Canada.

“Trips booked after this point are not eligible for medical coverage or trip cancellation/interruption coverage.”

Allianz Global Assistance Canada, which declined to comment due to  “how quickly the current coronavirus is evolving and the changing advisories” from Canada’s government and others, posted a notice on its website to customers about the outbreak indicating booking timing mattered for coverage eligibility.

People travelling to China whose trip cancellation benefits kick in if the government issues a Level 3 advisory would be eligible to submit a claim if they purchased insurance before Jan. 29, when the government issued its advisory, according to the statement.

For those who do qualify, it doesn’t matter whether their trip is next week or in six months, said Weir.

However, the destination matters. While 24 countries have confirmed coronavirus cases, Canada’s travel advisory applies only to China. That means a person who feels uncomfortable travelling to any of the other countries won’t be able to get a refund for cancelling their trip, she said.

That is, unless they purchased what’s known as
cancel-for-any-reason insurance, she said, which does exactly what
the name implies.

Those who haven’t purchased any travel insurance may still be able to secure a refund, Weir noted, as many major credit cards offer some kind of coverage.

“But it depends on which credit card you have and what the benefits are,” she said.  “So it’s good to know what your credit card covers for trip cancellation, for trip health, all that.”

Chinese military members face charges in Equifax breach impacting

By Tara Deschamps

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Four members of the Chinese military are facing charges for allegedly breaking into Equifax Inc. systems in 2017 and stealing data connected with Canadians, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed Monday.

An indictment filed by the department says the breach of the Atlanta-based credit monitoring company’s system compromised a “colossal repository of sensitive personally identifiable information.”

The breach affected the accounts of at least 19,000 Canadians, hundreds of thousands of Britons and 145 million Americans. The hacked information included names, addresses, social insurance and credit card numbers, usernames, passwords and secret question and answer data.

The four Beijing residents that the indictment alleges were involved in the hacking Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke and Liu Lei are facing charges of computer fraud, economic espionage and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The indictment says that over several weeks the group used a software vulnerability and encrypted communication channels to carry out the breach. They allegedly made use of 34 servers located in nearly 20 countries and wiped log files on a daily basis to reduce the likelihood that they would be caught.

“To further disguise their infrastructure, the conspirators obtained access to the servers located outside of China from reseller hosting services, who pursue remote computing services from other providers and then lease those remote compute services to others,” the indictment alleges.

“The conspirators attempted to disguise their unauthorized access to Equifax’s online dispute portal by using existing encrypted communication channels within Equifax’s network to send queries and commands, which allowed them to blend in with normal network activity.”

Equifax, the documents said, did not notice the hackers’ activity for more than six weeks.

The document also accuses the men of stealing trade secrets from the company.

Equifax reached a US$700 million settlement last year with the U.S. government over the data breach, earmarking most of the funds for consumers impacted by the incident.

Meanwhile, the Canadian privacy commissioner’s office released an investigation last year that found Equifax had poor security safeguards, was retaining information too long, had a lack of accountability for Canadians’ information and offered limited protection measures offered to affected individuals after the breach.

Asked by The Canadian Press on Monday about potential moves the federal government’s public safety ministry and privacy commissioner will make given the new developments, neither outlined any action.

They instead discussed investments in cybersecurity and previous investigations into the incident.

The RCMP said it is maintaining “situational awareness of this investigation and (is) prepared to assist upon request” with an ongoing investigation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. or other international law enforcement partners.

Charles Finlay, the executive director of the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst organization at Ryerson University in Toronto, called the U.S.’s handling of the situation  “aggressive,” but said he didn’t expect the Canadian government to follow suit.

“My suspicion is that the Canadian government will likely wait to se how the U.S. proceedings go,” he said.  “The Equifax breach was much much larger in the U.S. than it was in Canada.”

The case is particularly important, he said, because the hackers gained a great deal of information about potential targets and can access more information by leveraging that stolen data. The situation is even more serious because it can involve a state trying to advance their national security interest, he added.

Finlay doesn’t think those whose information was exposed can be “made whole again,” so he said action like the U.S. is taking is warranted.

“And I think we can expect to see more of this,” he said. “It’s not a game. People’s lives are at a stake and we are now beginning to see governments operate in that way.”

Westhill Hires Daniel Loosemore to Lead Expansion Into Canada

ATLANTA–(Business Wire)–Westhill is building a marketplace for property & casualty restoration and mitigation insurance claims. After making great strides in the US market, Westhill is now expanding their team in pursuit of growth into the Canadian market. The ecosystem that Westhill is building enables insurance companies to successfully alleviate friction in the claims process, by using cutting-edge technology to enhance the claim experience. Creators of the cloud-based platform are pleased to announce the appointment of Daniel Loosemore as their President of Canadian Operations.

“I’m excited to infuse the Canadian market with collaboration and transparency that no one else can offer in the insurance market today.”

“Dan brings a wealth of knowledge and market intelligence that is invaluable to us. He has an incredible network and proven ability to solve problems for insurance carriers,” said George Jones, CEO of Westhill. “He is the perfect candidate to lead Westhill’s growth in Canada and continue building our robust network of carriers and contractors. Our team is delighted to have him join us.”

Loosemore has always been connected to construction and insurance, bringing 20+ years of experience in property restoration. In his last role at Crawford Contractor Connection, Dan was responsible for taking an established managed repair network model in the US and scaling into Canada. During his transition from District Manager to Vice President of National Sales and Operations, Loosemore effectively grew and scaled his team from one (1) employee to fifty three (53) nationally, to service the customer base in both official languages (English and French). He then took this valuable experience into consulting and has been working with businesses to execute on strategic imperatives like growth, margin efficiencies, performance management and brand experience.

In addition to his achievements in the managed repair space, Loosemore exited Woodhouse Contracting, and stayed on throughout the earn-out to help the business continue to scale, rebrand and become one of the largest contractor brands in the country. Dan is a proven strategist who leads with passion in all his endeavors. Often touted as a leader who is highly inclusive and collaborative, his professionalism and values align well with the core values of Westhill.

“Westhill brings a progressive technology approach to a market which has historically been well behind the customer needs and consumer expectations,” expressed Dan. “I’m excited to infuse the Canadian market with collaboration and transparency that no one else can offer in the insurance market today.”

Westhill has been recognized in the US as an industry thought leader in Insurtech. Building upon the local successes in 2019, Westhill is now focused on embedding local talent and regional expertise in Canada to better serve their partners.

About Westhill

Westhill Inc. provides digital solutions for the property & casualty (P&C) insurance industry, focused on delivering an exceptional claim experience. Westhill leverages smart technology to connect insurance carriers, contractors and policyholders, providing customer choice and removing inefficiencies from the claims process. Advocates in the power of connection, Westhill believes all successful experiences need a foundation grounded in transparency and shared value, principles that are woven throughout each facet of Westhill’s business model.

Website: www.westhillglobal.com

View the experience: Westhill Video

Source: Business Wire

$80,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for 80% Recovered but Lingering Myofascial Pain Syndrome

The guest post is written by ERIK MAGRAKEN

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for myofascial pain developed secondary to a vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Tang v. Duong) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2105 collision where the Defendant turned into the plaintiff’s lane of travel at an intersection.   The Plaintiff developed various soft tissue injuries which resulted in regional myofascial pain syndrome.  By the time of trial the injuries were about 80% improved but the lingering symptoms were expected to persist.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $80,000 Mr. Justice Thompson provided the following reasons:

[11]         It is convenient to begin with Dr. Letcher’s evidence, which I accept in its entirety. On physical examination in September 2019, over four years after the MVA, Dr. Letcher identified tenderness and palpable trigger points on the right side of Mr. Tang’s neck, and the right side of his low back. Dr. Letcher reviewed the medical documentation made available to him, and noted the documentation of significant and prolonged low mood, anxiety disorder, sleep disturbance, as well as decreased exercise/activity tolerance. This was consistent with the history provided to him by Mr. Tang, and consistent with Mr. Tang’s evidence at trial, which I accept.

[12]         Dr. Letcher’s opinion is that the MVA probably caused acute muscle and ligamentous strains to Mr. Tang’s neck and back, which would have healed within about eight weeks, but he has subsequently developed regional myofascial pain syndrome affecting his neck and low back. At the time that Dr. Letcher examined Mr. Tang, there was no clear evidence of a more diffuse chronic pain syndrome such as fibromyalgia. I accept this evidence, and despite Dr. Lee’s diagnosis of fibromyalgia, I am not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Mr. Tang ever met the diagnostic criteria for that condition.

[13]         Dr. Letcher’s opinion is that Mr. Tang’s depressed mood, anxiety, and sleep disturbance complicate his prognosis, which Dr. Letcher describes as “guarded given the chronicity of his symptoms.” His neck and back pain will most likely persist into the foreseeable future, with some improvement with treatment strategies. Although Mr. Tang is not disabled from work, Dr. Letcher emphasized that he would need to “work around his symptoms as best as possible….

[17]         Mr. Tang has endured a significant amount of pain, and although I find he has achieved a recovery on the order of 80 percent, the likelihood is that he will always have some pain and stiffness in his neck and low back. Work is important to Mr. Tang, and the effects of his injuries causes him to have to work around his symptoms. He has been able to keep up with domestic chores since the summer of 2015. His injuries have affected his recreational pursuits, but in a modest way.  ..

[20]         Each of these cases has been of some help in making the assessment, but, naturally, each has important distinguishing features. Making an individualized assessment, I consider that $80,000 is a fit award for non-pecuniary damages.

bc injury law, chronic myofascial pain syndrome, chronic regional myofascial pain syndrome, Mr. Justice Thompson, Tang v. Duong

Wife of late Palestinian terrorist can’t collect on life insurance policy

By Colin Perkel

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ The wife of a notorious Palestinian terrorist who attacked an Israeli airliner has lost out on her bid to collect on her late husband’s life insurance because he failed to mention his unsavoury past when he took out the policy in 1987.

In overturning a lower court decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled against Fadia Khalil Mohammad given the important omission on his original application.

“It is a principle of long-standing that an applicant for insurance has an obligation to reveal to the insurer any information that is material to the application,” the Appeal Court ruled.  “The deceased knew that his past activities were relevant.”

Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, made international headlines in 1968 when he and an accomplice attacked an El Al commercial aircraft at the airport in Athens. They threw grenades and fired live rounds, killing one person and destroying the plane.

Mohammad was convicted in Greece of manslaughter and other offences but released after a hostage negotiation when other front members stormed another plane. He moved to Lebanon and then, under an alias, to Canada in 1987 and settled in Brantford, Ont.

After a publicized battle with immigration authorities, he was deported to Lebanon in 2013 and died from cancer in 2015. His wife, as sole beneficiary, sought to collect on the $75,000 policy issued decades earlier by the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company.

When he applied for the policy, Mohammad said he had just moved to Canada from Spain and provided a social insurance number, court records show. The application, however, did not ask about his citizenship or residency status, or any convictions. He made no mention of his nefarious past.

Khalil argued successfully before Superior Court last May that she should get the money. Justice Shaun O’Brien ruled that her late husband had not misrepresented his immigration status or failed to provide significant information about himself, because the insurance company had simply not asked those questions on the application form.

Manufacturers appealed, arguing O’Brien was wrong. The company maintained that Mohammad’s failure to disclose material facts had voided the policy. It relied on a clause that stated the company required “complete and accurate answers” and that it could deny a claim if any answers were wrong.

The Appeal Court agreed with Manufacturers, pointing out that insurance legislation requires applicants to disclose all facts material to the insurance.

“The past actions of the deceased were material to the risk that he posed for the purpose of having his life insured,” the Appeal Court found. “There is no suggestion that (Manufacturers) ought to have known that the information related to the deceased’s past existed, and therefore cannot be faulted for not having inquired into it.”

The higher court noted that shortly after applying for the insurance, Mohammad himself argued his life would be in danger if deported to Israel. The upshot, the court said, was that he had intentionally hidden his past activities from Manufacturers, just as he had done with the federal government when came to Canada.

“Our conclusion that the deceased intentionally withheld this information is sufficient to establish fraud,” the Appeal Court said.

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