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  • May, 2013

    Student loans

    Class Action

    CREDIT PROTECTION OFFER: We have written to the lawyers for the Attorney General of Canada for clarification about the offer of credit protection. Until we receive clarification, we cannot provide you with advice. Please check back soon. We will post further instructions as soon as possible

    1.   On January 11, 2013, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development announced that an external hard drive containing the private details of some 583,000 Canadians went missing. According to the press release, the Government of Canada has known about this since November 5, 2012.

    2.   The law firms of Sutts, Strosberg LLP , Falconer Charney LLP and Branch MacMaster LLP commenced a proposed class action against the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of all persons whose information was lost. Bob Buckingham Law also commenced a proposed class action against the Attorney General of Canada with respect to the same matter.  The four law firms have agreed to work together.  Click here to review the Consolidated Statement of Claim. 

    3.   Our initial information was that, if you were a student loan borrower between the years 2000-2006 from any province besides Quebec, or the territories of Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, you may be entitled to compensation and asked that you register your claim.

    4.   An announcement made in a government posting February 19, 2013 said, in part:

    Please be advised that the electronic storage device containing personal information of 583,000 Canada Student Loan borrowers who were clients of the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) from 2000-2006 also contained personal information of affected clients who fall outside the 2000-2006 period. Of the individuals affected, 2,800 fall outside the 2000-2006 period and of those 2,600 are in 2007. The department has already communicated with over 1,600 of these affected borrowers. Efforts continue to locate current contact information for all affected borrowers.

    5.   Please re-visit your registration as soon as possible to ensure that all information you have entered is up-dated, particularly given the new information.

    6.   Borrowers may be entitled to compensation for the breach of their privacy, damages for identity theft and/or damages to their credit reputation, damages for the costs incurred to prevent identity theft, damages for the time spent changing your personal information such as your Social Insurance Number, damages for emotional distress/inconvenience, and/or compensation for out of pocket expenses. Punitive damages will also be claimed because the Government failed to disclose the breach of privacy for 2 months.

    7.   On March 22, 2013, the plaintiffs delivered their motion record in support of certification.

    8.   On March 25, 2013, the parties attended at a case management teleconference before Justice Gagne of the Federal Court.  Click here to review the Direction issued by the court which sets the schedule for steps leading up to the certification motion.  Click here to review the Order issued by the court permitting the law firms to issue a new Consolidated Statement of Claim.

    9.   The certification hearing is scheduled to take place on December 17 and 18, 2013 at the Federal Court, in the City of Toronto, Province of Ontario.

    10.  At the certification motion, the court will determine whether this case can go forward as a class action.  The merits of this action will not be considered by the court at this motion.

    11.  We will continue to update this website as developments occur.

    12.  If you prefer, you may contact us toll-free at 1.866.225.9530.

    13.  If you would like to know more about how a class action works, please click here .

  • march, 2012

    Credit reporting errors costing Canadians

    Consumers face higher interest rates, credit card denials after mistakes made

    Credit rating mistakes are costing unsuspecting consumers thousands of dollars in higher interest rates and preventing some from getting much needed loans, a CBC News investigation has found.

    In the past few years, more than 500 complaints have been filed with provincial consumer affairs agencies across Canada about credit reporting agencies, many alleging errors by companies led to their poor credit scores.

    "I feel like a guy who is made to pay for the sins of something I didn't do," said Mervin Smith. "It's like being wrongfully accused of something."

    How to check your credit report

    Smith is one of many Canadians who told CBC News about how unknown errors on their credit rating reports caused them financial strife. In some cases, even after creditors and collection agencies admitted to a mistake, it took several months to restore a credit rating.

    The Brampton, Ont., truck driver, spent months trying to get his credit rating fixed after an error appeared on his credit report.

    When applying for a mortgage in late 2011, Smith learned that an unpaid Rogers bill for a “Marvin Smith” had been listed on his report since 2007.

    Tips?

    If you have any information on this story or any other story please contact us at investigations@cbc.ca .

    He says his bank granted him the mortgage but denied him an overdraft, a credit card and a line of credit.

    Smith sued debt collection agency iQor in small claims court over the name mix-up and won a $3,000 settlement in May of 2012.

    Collection agency harassed debt-free Canadians

    Despite that, his Equifax credit report still refers to him as "also known as: Marvin Smith."

    "I just applied for another card and I got turned down again and I had perfect credit," said Smith.

    Many Canadians affected

    Dan Barnabic, a Toronto paralegal who has represented clients in credit disputes for the past seven years, said the impact of a false credit score can be devastating.

    The impact of a false credit score can be \ The impact of a false credit score can be "devastating" and it can take months to repair. (iStockphoto)

    "You are what your credit is," said Barnabic. "And when you discover something that actually does not belong to you…, that will actually prevent you from getting credit, it's devastating. It turns into a horrific situation that people lose sleep over."

    Few statistics are available about how many Canadians know about mistakes on their credit reports.

    Consumer Protection BC, a non-profit that oversees provincial consumer laws, says that in the past three years it has received 341 calls from people complaining about inaccurate information on their credit reports.

    But many provincial consumer protection agencies don't track how many complaints about credit ratings are about potential errors.

    A national survey by the non-profit Public Interest Advocacy Centre published in 2005 found that 18 per cent of the people surveyed had discovered inaccuracies in their credit report. Ten per cent of those who discovered the issue believed they were denied access to financial services due to the errors.

    Barnabic estimates the number could be much higher. The Toronto paralegal says about one-third of his approximately 3,000 clients have found inaccuracies in their credit reports.

    "On a weekly, daily basis people would knock on my door and say, 'Dan, I have a problem. I have something on my report that does not belong to me,' " said Barnabic.

    Unaware of charges

    Under the credit reporting system, companies — such as phone service providers and banks — provide information about clients and their payment history to Canada's credit bureaus, such as Equifax Canada Inc. and TransUnion Canada.

    Companies pay a fee for the bureaus to keep track of clients. In return, the credit bureau provides the companies with access to consumer credit reports, which is based on information gleaned from all its client companies.

    When a bank is deciding whether to grant a mortgage, for example, the financial institution can access the individual's credit record via a request to the credit bureau.

    Consumers can also request to see their credit rating but few do. A mistake can go unknown for months or even years, potentially leading to extra interest costs or other issues.

    Joan Biseau, a hospital technician in Moncton, N.B., believes she is still paying thousands of dollars in extra interest on a vehicle she recently purchased after her credit rating was downgraded due to an error by Rogers Communication.

    New Brunswick resident Joan Biseau says a mistake on her credit report will cost her thousands of dollars. New Brunswick resident Joan Biseau says a mistake on her credit report will cost her thousands of dollars. (CBC)

    Biseau was unaware of an outstanding charge on her Rogers account until three years after the fact, when a debt collection agency began calling in February, 2011. Biseau promptly paid the bill when notified.

    The telecom company had sent her last bill for about $200 to the wrong address and later admitted to the mistake.

    Despite Rogers acknowledging its error, the black mark remained on her credit rating for more than a year.

    Biseau says it forced her to get a high-interest loan on the 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt she bought in September of 2011, increasing the cost of her purchase by up to $10,000.

    "It's terrible. I'm not a millionaire. And I need my car for work," says Biseau. "So I had to buy it … for $7,000. At the end of it, I’m going to be paying $17,000 for my car because of the high interest rates.”

    The information about the owed debt was removed from the TransUnion and Equifax credit reports after CBC contacted Rogers and Equifax.

    Calls for federal oversight

    In a written statement, Rogers said that its policy is to investigate immediately when a customer contacts them. "If there is a mistake, we have the issue corrected with the collection agency and the credit bureau or bureaus and get confirmation from the collection agency that the correction has been made," the written statement said.

    Paul Le Fevre, Equifax Canada's director of operations, says the agency depends on correct information from its member companies. Mistakes are rare, he said, but when they do happen, the company needs the creditors who supplied the information to sign off on it.

    Toronto paralegal Dan Barnabic says the federal government should provide oversight of credit rating agencies. Toronto paralegal Dan Barnabic says the federal government should provide oversight of credit rating agencies. (CBC)

    "What we rely on our members to do, though, is to remove that information or amend that information accordingly within the electronic media that they send to us," said Le Fevre.

    TransUnion also responded in a written statement, stating that it aims to "maintain accurate information on every consumers' TransUnion credit report."

    Consumers can report items believed to be inaccurate by phone or email and the company will investigate it, the statement said.

    Under current provincial consumer protection legislation, companies can face fines, but Barnabic says the fines are rarely, if ever, used.

    The Toronto paralegal says the federal government should oversee the credit rating industry rather than leaving regulation in the provinces’ domain.

    "Our elected government so far has showed very little interest in improving the system and actually getting the consumer on equal footing with the financial sector," said Barnabic.

    He suggests modeling it on the U.S. system, where credit bureaus must by law investigate consumer complaints about disputed information on their credit rating report within 30 days.

    Barnabic says credit bureaus should be forced to either delete errors immediately or face a hefty fine.

  • Feb, 2012

    News - HRSDC apologizes for losing personal info on half a million Canadians

    OTTAWA -- We're sorry -- and we're trying to make sure it never happens again.

    That was the message Thursday from senior federal bureaucrats responsible for the loss of personal information belonging to more than half a million Canadians.

    Employees at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada lost an external hard drive and USB key in November, resulting in the massive privacy breach.

    "Sensitive personal information was stored on unencrypted portable storage devices and not properly secured. This should not have occurred," said Ian Shugart, a deputy minister with the department.

    "On behalf of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, I say to the committee, I apologize for these incidents. "

    Most of the people affected participated in the Canada Student Loan program between 2000 and 2007, though information belonging to participants in other programs -- as well as government staff -- was also compromised.

    Both the RCMP and privacy commissioner are now investigating and at least three class action lawsuits have been launched.

    A trio of bureaucrats from the department appeared before a House of Commons committee Thursday to give their account of what happened.

    After the hard drive vanished on Nov. 5, officials spent a month scouring offices in Gatineau, Que., both searching for the missing device and trying to figure out what data was on it, Shugart said.

    "We were being diligent about the search, when we came to the conclusion, the strong supposition that the material was not likely to be found, we continued even after to that to search exhaustively, " he said.

    But when they realized that the social insurance numbers, birthdays and account balances of some 583,000 people had gone missing, Shugart said they immediately notified the privacy commissioner, began alerting those affected and launched an internal investigation.

    Meanwhile, another search had already been launched for a USB key that went missing some 10 days earlier. That device contained social insurance numbers, birthdays and information on medical conditions for about 5,000 people. In that instance, it only took six days for the privacy commissioner to be warned.

    MPs wondered why, in the case of the hard drive, it seemed to take so long to let Canadians know their personal information had been lost.

    "You describe the actions as swift, you acted swiftly, but November 5 this first hard drive went missing and there wasn't a formal investigation launched until the first week of January," said NDP MP Ryan Cleary.

    "How can you describe that as swift?"

    Shugart said the officials were simply following their own rules.

    "I don't want to be misunderstood as in any way saying that what occurred is acceptable -- it wasn't -- but with the information we had at the time we had it, we believe we acted appropriately with respect to our protocols."

    In neither case is criminal behaviour suspected, Shugart added.

    "We encountered no evidence of malfeasance and none of the monitoring that has been done since has given us any reason to believe that malicious activity has been undertaken."

    In the wake of the two losses, the government has arranged for those affected to have access to credit protection packages via the credit reporting service Equifax.

    About 50,000 people have enrolled so far, the bureaucrats said.

    They've also fielded calls from about 200,000 people concerned about their data, and say about 65 per cent were caught up in the loss.

    Since the two incidents, the department has banned the use of portable hard drives and unapproved USB sticks. They have also installed new data loss protection software designed to keep better tabs on where and how data is being moved around the department.

    The ongoing internal investigation means no disciplinary action has yet been taken against the employees responsible for the data loss, though existing policies suggest they could lose their jobs.

    Human Resources was responsible for 19 out of 80 privacy breaches by government departments reported to the privacy commissioner's office last year.

    The majority of the 80 were due to human error, the commissioner's office reported.

    Shugart said his department's aim is to get that number down to zero.

    "Human beings run the system; there can never be any absolute fail-safe," he said.

    "But in terms of that human culture, we want to be an organization that is excellent in everything that we do and individuals know their part in the larger scheme of things and they will handle Canadians information carefully, sensitively and accordingly to the rules."

    Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/hrsdc-apologizes-for-losing-personal-info-on-half-a-million-canadians-1.1156750#ixzz2LYuIW6uI
  • Feb, 2012

    News - Lost hard drive held personal data on 583,000 student loan borrowers

    OTTAWA — A federal agency has lost a portable hard drive containing personal information about more than half a million people who took out student loans — prompting investigations by the RCMP and the national privacy watchdog.

    Human Resources and Skills Development Canada said Friday the device contained data on 583,000 Canada Student Loans Program borrowers from 2000 to 2006.

    The missing files include student names, social insurance numbers, dates of birth, contact information and loan balances of borrowers, as well as the personal contact information of 250 department employees.

    Borrowers from Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories during this period are not affected.

    No banking or medical information was on the portable device.

    Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said she has called on the RCMP to assist with the incident, “given its serious nature.”

    “I want all Canadians to know that I have expressed my disappointment to departmental officials at this unacceptable and avoidable incident in handling Canadians’ personal information,” she said in a statement.

    In addition, the office of the federal privacy commissioner announced Friday it would investigate.

    It is too early to gauge the magnitude of the lapse, said Scott Hutchinson, a spokesperson for the privacy czar. “Given the numbers the department has shared, it looks, at the outset, to be pretty big.”

    Human Resources is sending letters to affected people, for whom it has current contact information, to advise them on how to protect their personal information.

    A toll-free number has been set up at 1-866-885-1866 (or 1-416-572-1113 for those outside North America) to help people determine whether they are affected. It will begin taking calls Monday morning.

    “It’s definitely unfortunate,” said Adam Awad, national chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, which received a briefing on the loss.

    “It highlights how easy it is for information in today’s age to be misplaced, to be misappropriated, to be stolen — if that’s what the case was.”

    The group is “very appreciative” of the steps taken to deal with the breach, he added.

    The federation was assured that federal officials who deal with social insurance numbers have been put on alert to watch for activity concerning the numbers of those whose files have been lost, Awad said.

    The loss of the hard drive from an office in Gatineau, Que., came to light as the department looked into another breach — a missing USB key containing the personal information of more than 5,000 Canadians.

    The privacy commissioner’s office has already begun a probe of that incident, which was publicized last month.

    Human Resources says that while there is no evidence any of the information in the latest breach has been used for fraudulent purposes, an extensive search for the hard drive continues.

    In her statement, Finley said she had directed officials to take immediate action to ensure “that such an unnecessary situation” does not happen again.

    She has requested that departmental employees across Canada receive information about “the seriousness of these recent incidents” and that they participate in mandatory training on a new security policy.

    The new policy immediately bans portable hard drives within the department. In addition, unapproved USB keys are not to be connected to the computer network.

    All portable security devices will be assessed for the risk they pose, to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place.

    New data-loss prevention technology — which can control or prevent the transfer of sensitive information — will also be introduced.

    Finally, staff will be subject to disciplinary measures, including possible firing, should privacy and security codes not be followed.

    Alyson Queen, a spokesperson for the minister, said the Mounties were contacted Monday. “They will determine what further steps are required.”

    The Canadian Press

  • July 31, 2012

    News - New Westminster woman bilked in online romance scam

    A New Westminster woman is out more than $6,000 after falling victim to an online romance scam.

    The New Westminster woman started a profile on an online dating site and while accessing the site, she was messaged by another member who claimed to hold the rank of major in the U.S. Army and was currently deployed in Afghanistan.

    After communicating for a week, the man asked the woman to send him money via Western Union so that he could visit her in Canada during his deployment leave and he would pay her back later. The woman filled out a leave request form, providing her personal information and stating she was the man's fiance.

    For the next month, the woman sent seven Western Union transactions to Kentucky, Georgia and Nigeria. None of the names she was advised to send the money to was the name of the man. She believed them all to be part of the U.S. military.

    The woman became suspicious that she may have been the victim of fraud when she saw a newspaper article regarding the top 10 scams of 2012. She soon realized she had been victimized by Nigerian scam artists and will probably never recover her money.

    The New Westminster Police Department urges residents to be very cautious with their money and personal information, particularly through online interaction. To obtain further information on this and other types of scams, please go to www.antifraudcentre.ca.

    © Copyright (c) New West Record

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