Former head of China’s Anbang group appeals prison sentence

The founder and former head of the sprawling Chinese insurance group that owns New York’s famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel is appealing his sentence of 18 years in prison for fraud.

A lawyer for Wu Xiaohui told The Associated Press on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 that his client would seek to have the charges against him dismissed.

Lawyer Chen Youxi said the charges were not supported by evidence, but declined to provide further information.

Prior to Wu’s sentencing earlier this month, his Anbang Insurance Group acquired a vast range of global assets and discussed possibly investing in a Manhattan skyscraper owned by the family of U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. Those talks ended last year with no deal.

The Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court said Wu pleaded guilty at trial to fraudulently raising billions of dollars from investors.

The court also ordered the confiscation of 10.5 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in assets from Wu, who founded privately-owned Anbang in 2004.

Wu was accused of misleading investors and diverting money for his own use. He was detained last year and regulators seized control of Anbang in February. He was shown on state TV in March admitting guilt.

Wu initially had denied his guilt at his one-day trial, according to a court statement.

Court documents quoted by state media said Wu concealed his ownership of shares in companies controlled by Anbang, filed false statements with financial authorities and lured investors by offering a rate of return above that offered elsewhere. Much of the business relied on selling insurance products to raise investment capital.

They said he used more than 100 companies under his control to manage funds and used his position to misappropriate 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in Anbang’s deposits.

BMO and CIBC’s Simplii warn fraudsters may have accessed clients’ data

Two of Canada’s biggest banks warned Monday that “fraudsters” may have accessed certain personal and financial information of up to 90,000 customers.

The Bank of Montreal said hackers contacted the bank on Sunday claiming to be in possession of the personal information of fewer than 50,000 customers and threatened to make it public.

“We became aware of unverified claims that customer personal and financial data may have been accessed by a fraudster,” said spokesman Paul Gammal in an emailed statement Monday, May 28, 2018.

“A threat was made. Our practice is not to make payments to fraudsters. We are focused on protecting and helping our customers,” he said.

The bank said it believes the attack originated outside Canada, but did not elaborate on the type of data they accessed.

Gammal said the bank is conducting a thorough investigation and is working with the relevant authorities.

The disclosure followed a warning from CIBC’s direct banking brand Simplii Financial that also said “fraudsters” may have electronically accessed certain personal and account information for approximately 40,000 Simplii Financial clients.

Simplii said Monday it learned of the potential issue on Sunday and has implemented additional online security measures such as enhanced online fraud monitoring, adding it is working with the relevant authorities.

Gammal said the potential breach at BMO appears to be related to the CIBC issue. Royal Bank, Scotiabank and Toronto-Dominion Bank said they have no indication they were affected.

Both BMO and CIBC said they will be contacting clients, and recommended that customers monitor their accounts and notify their financial institution about any suspicious activity.

“We are investigating to determine the validity of the claims and the type of the information that may have been accessed,” CIBC spokesman Tom Wallis said in an emailed statement.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau has spoken to the chief executives of the affected institutions, ministry spokeswoman Jocelyn Sweet said.

“We are monitoring the situation closely with the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions,” she said in an emailed statement. “The situation is being investigated by the institutions in collaboration with law enforcement.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner said Monday that both financial institutions have notified it about the issue.

“We are working with the organizations to better understand what occurred and what they are doing to mitigate the situation,” said spokeswoman Valerie Lawton in an email.

“At this point in time, we are in contact with the companies; we have not opened a formal investigation.”

Simplii said Monday that clients who are victims of fraud because of the issue will receive 100 per cent of the money lost from the affected bank account. It added that there is no indication that clients who bank through CIBC have been affected.

CIBC launched Simplii in November and absorbed the accounts of some two million President’s Choice Financial account holders. CIBC had provided the back-end banking services for PC Financial for nearly 20 years, but last August the bank struck a deal with PC’s parent company Loblaw to go their separate ways.

The potential data breaches reported by Simplii and BMO on Monday are the latest cybersecurity incidents involving Canadians.

Last fall, credit reporting service Equifax notified the public that hackers accessed or stole the personal data of 145.5 million U.S. customers and 19,000 Canadians. In January, Bell Canada warned some of its customers that their information, such as names and email addresses, had been illegally accessed in a data breach.

In November, ride-sharing company Uber said hackers stole names, email addresses and cellphone numbers of millions of riders. Uber in December said that 815,000 Canadian riders and drivers may have been affected as part of the worldwide data breach.

New federal data breach regulations which would require mandatory reporting of security breaches are set to take effect on Nov. 1.

The regulations require organizations to determine if a data breach poses a risk to any individual whose information was involved and then to notify the federal privacy commissioner and affected individuals “as soon as feasible.” Previously, companies that had been hacked had been alerting the public on their own timeline.

Six Montrealers facing extradition to the U.S. for alleged fraud

A Pennsylvania woman who is among the alleged victims of a lottery scheme involving six Montreal-area men has testified she lost nearly US$300,000.

The six are facing extradition to the United States to face charges related to the alleged fraud of US$1.35 million.

Court documents provide similar testimony from two other alleged victims in Pennsylvania as well as two from California, and one each from Massachusetts and Oregon. They were all led to believe they had won a Canadian lottery.

The documents allege the Pennsylvania woman was first targeted in November 2011, when a man identifying himself as a Canadian-based attorney told her she had won $80,000 in a lottery in Canada.

But before she could receive the prize, she was allegedly told she had to pay taxes and customs fees totalling $8,000. The fees could be paid through Western Union and/or MoneyGram.

After she wired that amount, an individual who claimed to be a U.S. customs officer allegedly contacted her and said the prize was actually $800,000, meaning additional taxes of more than $88,000.

The court documents allege she was then contacted by another person claiming to be an agent with the Internal Revenue Service. She was told there was an additional $900,000 lottery prize but again had to pay taxes and fees before she could collect. The woman was also provided with lenders to help her pay for the additional fees.

In the end, the American lost about $295,000 _ her life savings _ because of the allegedly fraudulent sweepstakes.

The fraud artists allegedly used prepaid cellphones to call the Americans and then tell them to send money to cover taxes, transfer fees and insurance.

The phones were obtained and listed under fictitious names.

The six accused, who allegedly conspired with one another, range in age from 53 to 72 and were arrested at the request of prosecutors in Pennsylvania.

American authorities allege the group was part of a network that operated out of Montreal from May 2011 through at least October 2013.

The alleged victims never received the winning lottery money they were promised.

The recent arrests came after a three-year inquiry that involved the RCMP and Quebec provincial police.

It was part of a U.S.-Canada initiative known as “Project COLT,” which targeted telemarketers.

RCMP investigators say the accused are to appear in Quebec Superior Court in early June.

April is Auto Crime Enforcement Month 2018: “Lock it or Looted”

Source: ICBC

April is Auto Crime Enforcement Month. This year the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT), the Province of British Columbia, and ICBC are asking vehicle owners to avoid tempting criminals. The theme of “Lock it or Looted” suggests that if owners are not locking their vehicle doors, they are susceptible to crimes of opportunity.

The statistics from the past year show that in British Columbia the number of thefts from vehicles dropped by less than a percent due to an increase in the number of thefts from vehicles in parts of the province outside the Lower Mainland.

What thieves are looking for is opportunity. Vehicle owners are being cautioned to not leave themselves vulnerable to victimization.

Top 10 most common items stolen from vehicles:

  • Smartphones
  • Personal electronics – tablets, laptops, GPS
  • Work tools
  • Credit cards
  • Identification and documents
  • Cash and change
  • Car parts and accessories
  • Garage door openers
  • Sunglasses
  • Keys

“In British Columbia, we need to see thefts from vehicles drop more significantly in order to say we are having an impact on deterring auto crime,” says Insp. MacDonald of IMPACT.  “The hard work of our team at IMPACT and the diligence of all officers  around the province has gone a long way towards educating the public and making vehicle owners aware of how they can help bring these statistics down.”

“The police, the Province, ICBC, the IMPACT team, and B.C.’s Bait Car program continue to work around the clock to take down auto thieves and help put them behind bars—and these innovative efforts continue to make our roads and communities safer,” says Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “But, we must all remain vigilant, and Auto Crime Enforcement month is an excellent opportunity to remind vehicle owners of the many ways they can protect their automobiles and keep their personal property safe. Everyone has a role to play to make it harder for auto thieves and to ensure there are fewer victims of auto crime.”

“Auto crime is not only a distressing and troublesome experience for our customers, but also adds pressure on claims costs,” says Steve Crombie, Vice President responsible for Road Safety at ICBC. “Last year stolen vehicle claims in B.C. cost approximately $50 million and vehicle break-in claims cost another $18 million. Taking thoughtful actions to prevent auto crime not only helps to control claims costs, but will help to make our communities and roads safer.”

In order to keep vehicles safe, it requires a conscious effort by the owners. Some helpful tips include:
  • Do not leave your vehicle running with the keys in the ignition.
  • Park in a locked, secure garage, or a well-lit, high-traffic area.
  • Remove unsecured possessions from your vehicle.  Anything that might tempt a thief.
  • Install an alarm system.
  • Always lock your vehicle.

Keep Your Home Safe From Thieves This Holiday Season

There are many important steps we can take to keep our home safe from break-ins over the holidays, as we travel and bring new gifts home. Most break-ins are opportunistic burglaries, and Christmas is the time when many thieves are looking for the insecure home.

You can help prevent thieves targeting your home by carrying out a few simple common sense measures.

Always lock all outside doors and windows when you go out, including garage windows and doors, especially if the garage has an internal door leading to the main house. Lock your garden tools and ladders away and always keep your house keys in a safe place. Burglars know to look under a mat, pull the string and key through the letter box, or move the large stone near the front/back door.

When heading out for the evening, put a light on, put the radio or TV on and leave a small gap in the curtains so that a light can be seen.

If you are going away for a longer time, use timers to control Christmas lights and indoor lamps, and ask a neighbour to take in your mail and newspapers and clear your walks and driveway of snow when needed. Consider having a trusted person spend some time inside your house each day. If you leave a car in the driveway, consider having that same person move it periodically to make it appear as if its being used.

Turn your telephone ringer off and don’t leave outgoing phone or email messages to indicate that you are away. Be careful of posting information about your travel plans or expensive gifts on social media.

Do not display your Christmas tree & gifts in a window visible from the street. Criminals may be tempted to smash the window to steal packages or plan a break-in. After Christmas, do not leave empty gift boxes by the garbage or put them our for curbside recycling. This is an advertisement for thieves. Collapse the boxes, cut them up to conceal the items or take them directly to your community recycling depot.

Review your home insurance plan, and be aware that there are limits for how long your home can be left empty for coverage to remain valid.

Insurance agents are encouraged to review these tips with their clients, as well as to be aware of the limitations of their client’s insurance policies.

Are you an insurance agent looking to boost your home insurance knowledge? ILScorp offers a variety of accredited online continuing education courses, as well as licensing programs. Many of our most popular courses are on sale for the month of December. Visit ILScorp.com to learn more.

Preventing parking lot theft

Those shopping bag full of pricey electronics and fancy jewelry that are sitting in your backseat will no doubt make some loved ones happy this holiday season, but they could also be irresistible to thieves.

As the shopping season is in full swing, many people are flocking to malls and big box stores to get their lists checked off. However, this is also the season when thieves become more active, often targeting shoppers who are carrying more cash and presents.

“We want to believe the holidays are filled with kindness, peace and joy, but there are people out there haunting parking lots in hopes of taking advantage of the season,” said Mark Desrochers, president, personal lines at The Hanover in a statement.

“Because a car break-in can be traumatic and leave you feeling vulnerable, and also bring with it car repair and replacement costs, we thought it was important to remind shoppers to be prepared before you hit the stores. We want to help to ensure you can enjoy the spirit of the holiday, without it being tainted by theft.”

To be safer in parking lots and garages during the holidays and year-around, The Hanover recommends the following tips:

  • Choose Your Spot Carefully — Do not park close to bushes, trees, walls, large vehicles, or any other obstruction that may provide a cover for criminals. At night, park in well-lit areas, ideally where others are coming and going.
  • Keep Your Valuables Out of Sight — Hide or remove anything valuable from the vehicle. Tablets, laptops, smart phones and navigational systems are popular targets for car burglars. They are easy to steal and conceal. If possible, leave them at home — or at least — hide them out of sight. If you accumulate shopping bags during the trip, store them in a locked trunk.
  • Lock-up — All doors should be locked and all windows should be shut tight. Don’t forget to lock the trunk if it doesn’t lock automatically when you lock your doors. When returning to your vehicle, lock your doors immediately upon entering.
  • Use Alarms — Set your car alarm before leaving your vehicle. If you do not have one, consider having one installed. Alarm stickers and decals are great visible deterrents. Others include steering-wheel locks and brake-pedal locks.  Even carrying simple items like a whistle, can be helpful to draw attention and ward off thieves.
  • Be Alert — Always be aware of your surroundings, when parking and returning to your vehicle. Keep your keys in hand when returning so you can enter your vehicle quickly. It is always a good idea to check your back seat before entering your vehicle to be sure no one hiding inside.

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