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.

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.”

IBC and CANATICS combine efforts to fight fraud

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) Board of Directors agreed to create an industry advisory group to lead the development of a strategy to ensure a smooth transition of anti-fraud services to a single entity. Currently, two entities, IBC and Canadian National Insurance Crime Services (CANATICS), provide anti-fraud services to the industry.

“Fraud costs Ontario drivers alone over a billion dollars every year. But it’s more than a financial problem. For example, insurance fraud cases needlessly tie up courts, fraud that involves staged collisions siphons emergency services away from those who truly need them. Combining the expertise of IBC and CANATICS will better align with insurers’ own efforts to fight fraud and enable data sharing that will make it easier to detect and prevent fraud,” said Don Forgeron, President and CEO, IBC.

The advisory group will include senior members of the insurance industry, with representatives from IBC and CANATICS. The group will begin meeting in late February or early March.

“Fraud continues to grow more pervasive and more sophisticated, and it’s time to up the ante in our fight against it. Our industry has a role to play in protecting innocent consumers from the impacts of fraud. Combining the efforts of IBC and CANATICS will strengthen the industry’s fight against this type of crime,” said Jason Storah, Chair of the Board of CANATICS, and CEO, Aviva Canada.

“IBC and CANATICS continue to collaborate during this time of business as usual,” added Don Forgeron.

​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 128,000 Canadians, pays $9.4 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $59.6 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca.

About CANATICS

CANATICS, or Canadian National Insurance Crime Services, is a not-for-profit organization focused on using state-of-the-art analytical tools to identify potentially suspicious claims in insurance industry pooled data, to facilitate further investigation by individual insurers.

These are the 10 most stolen cars in Quebec this year

Basem Boshra CTV News Montreal

MONTREAL — The Insurance Bureau of Canda has released its annual list of the most stolen cars in Canada, and in Quebec, the Top 10 list consists of just two makes: Lexus and Toyota.

According to the IBC, these are the 10 most stolen cars in Quebec in 2019:

  1. 2018 Lexus RX350/RX350L/RX450h/RX450hL 4DR AWD
  2. 2018 Lexus NX300/NX300h 4DR AWD
  3. 2017 Lexus RX350/RX450h 4DR AWD
  4. 2016 Lexus RX350/RX450h 4DR AWD
  5. 2017 Toyota HIGHLANDER 4DR 4WD
  6. 2018 Toyota HIGHLANDER 4DR 4WD
  7. 2015 Toyota PRIUS V 5DR
  8. 2017 Lexus NX200t/NX300h 4DR AWD
  9. 2015 Lexus NX200t/NX300h 4DR AWD
  10. 2016 Toyota Highlander 4DR 4WDd

 

4 scams to watch out for this holiday season

Frauds, scams spike this time of year, says RCMP

CBC News

As shoppers gear up for the holiday season, police say fraudsters are also preparing to take advantage of those who aren’t careful.

The holidays are ripe for fraudulent activity, with various types of scams appearing around this time of year, according to Jeff Thomson, a senior intelligence analyst with the RCMP’s fraud unit.

Here are some of the most common scams Thomson said people should watch out for.

SIM swapping

Thomson said the RCMP has seen a recent spike in identity theft through what’s known as SIM swapping.

Fraudsters will send a phishing email, which appears to be from your service provider, offering you free data or something similar — and a link for you to claim your “prize.”

The link asks for personal information to update your cellular account profile. Fraudsters will then contact your service provider and, using that information, gain access to your phone.

“If you have your bank accounts, your social media accounts, email accounts — they can now start to gain access to the accounts you have on your mobile device,” Thomson said.

If you receive an email from your service provider with an offer, Thomson recommends calling them to verify it’s real.

Evolving phone scams

This one might sound familiar: someone allegedly calls from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and demands payment for back taxes while threatening the victim with arrest.

Thomson said the RCMP are seeing a spike in these kinds of scams, but instead of the CRA, the fraudsters claim to be from Service Canada.

“The Service Canada scam I’m seeing as the evolution of the CRA scam,” Thomson said.

Fraudsters tell victims their social insurance number (SIN) is compromised and then attempt a two-part scam.

First, they’ll attempt to coax your name, date of birth, SIN and other personal information from you.

Then they’ll say police or investigators need to follow up, which later turns into a demand for cash. Thomson said that usually takes the form of fraudsters telling victims to move money into a “safe account.”

Like with the CRA scam, Thomson said Canadian agencies wouldn’t call and ask for personal information.

Online shopping scams

As more and more shoppers turn to the internet to find that perfect holiday gift, fraudsters are taking notice.

Thomson said one scam comes in the form of an unbelievable offer for a wish-list item — but often it’s counterfeit or of an inferior quality.

To avoid being duped, Thomson recommends only shopping at well-known websites, reading reviews on lesser-known ones first, and using payment programs that have credit card protection.

“If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.

Loan scams

This scam typically preys on victims looking for extra cash during the holidays.

Fraudsters offer loans, Thomson said, and then either take personal information or begin to demand payments.

Thomson advises people to be cautious and only seek loans from credible providers.

CBC News

 

Cornwall, Ont., woman loses life savings to terrifying ‘SIN scam’

Scammer posing as RCMP investigator bilked Julia-Shea Baker of $4K

The excerpted article was written by Laura Osman · CBC News ·

A Cornwall, Ont., woman has lost all her money after falling victim to a scam the RCMP are calling the top identity fraud in Canada.

Julia-Shea Baker, a 23-year-old server, lost $4,000 to the “SIN scam,” a new version of the Canada Revenue Agency fraudulent act that’s been used for years to dupe people out of their money.

It all started two weeks ago when Baker got a terrifying call from Service Canada telling her that her social insurance number had been compromised. The caller identified himself as RCMP investigator Steve Rogers.

You’re not being physically held hostage or held for ransom, but it feels that way. It feels like your freedom is on the line.– Julia-Shea Baker

The caller told her a car rented in her name had been discovered abandoned in south Toronto with blood residue on the seats and 10 kilograms of cocaine inside.

The “officer,” who gave Baker a badge number and a case number, told her that her name and social insurance number were involved in a drug and money-laundering investigation.

“My heart started racing, my palms started sweating,” Baker said. “I was absolutely panicked. I was terrified, absolutely terrified.”

When she questioned the officer’s story, he called her back from a different phone number. The caller ID showed up as belonging to the Cornwall RCMP. She looked for the number on Google and it seemed legitimate.

In September, the RCMP warned Cornwall residents their phone number was being “spoofed” — used fraudulently to make it look as if scammers were calling from the local detachment.

Call lasted hours

“Steve Rogers” told Baker the RCMP would take care of getting her a new SIN, but to protect her money, she had to transfer her savings to secure gift cards.

He instructed her to drive to grocery stores and pharmacies across Cornwall to buy up Google Play gift cards, all the while staying on the line to make sure she did what she was told.

After several purchases, her debit card was declined, so the caller told her to go to her bank and withdraw all the cash she had left to buy more gift cards. When she’d done that, he ordered Baker to call the bank to increase her credit limit, then buy yet more gift cards.

“This went on for four and a half hours,” Baker said. In that time, she spent $4,000 to buy 35 gift cards.

The whole time, the caller stayed on the line, carefully taking note of the gift card numbers and codes.

Threats, intimidation

Baker said she broke down in tears several times during the ordeal, but the man on the phone kept reiterating she couldn’t tell anyone what was going on, and if she did, she could be implicated in the investigation.

He told her that her messages and conversations were being monitored.

“You’re not being physically held hostage or held for ransom, but it feels that way. It feels like your freedom is on the line,” she said.

Julia-Shea Baker describes how she fell victim to a common scam — and why the story the scammers told her seemed to make sense at the time. 4:40

“Steve Rogers” told her he would call her back at 9 a.m. the following day to arrange to give her a new SIN, but he never called. When she called the original number back, the person who answered didn’t speak English.

That’s when she went to her local police station and learned she had been scammed. By then, the money was already gone.

“To realize that you’ve been duped, that somebody has taken advantage of your vulnerability … you feel dirty, you feel violated,” she said.

She said she’d heard of similar scams before, but the “officer” offered her enough information to make her feel the call was legitimate — and urgent.

She’s not alone, according to Jeff Thomson, senior RCMP intelligence analyst with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

He said the SIN scam is the most popular type of identity fraud reported to his unit, and it’s on the rise.

From January to July, there were 800 reports of similar scams in Canada. By October, that number had reached 3,000.

Police say it’s an adaptation of the CRA scam that became prevalent a few years ago. As people got wise to the fraud, the scammers changed tactics.

Some victims give personal details to the callers, allowing them to steal their identities, while others are tricked into sending money, Thomson said.

Caller ID can’t be trusted as a means of filtering out scam calls, he said. The biggest tip-off is if the caller behaves in a threatening manner.

“The government’s never going to call you and threaten you into sending money, they’re not going to ask for your personal information over the phone in an unsolicited fashion, in an alarming, scary fashion,” he said.

His best advice: Just hang up.

Baker said she feels gullible for falling for the scam, and hopes others can learn from her experience.

“If it can help somebody else in the future, then at the end of the day it’s more valuable to me than $4,000,” she said.

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