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His bank raided his account to cover a payment made to scammers –



Justin Smith has been hit with a one-two punch of bad luck. 

First, the Toronto man was duped by a job scam that made off with $3,000. Then his longtime bank, Tangerine, helped itself to money Smith had in his tax-free savings account to recoup what it had lost in the scam.

“You keep your money in the bank because you think it’s safe,” he said. “And they treat the money like it’s theirs, and they just move it around to protect themselves. That’s not fair.”

Tangerine is an online subsidiary of Scotiabank that offers no-fee savings and chequing accounts.

Here’s how the double episode of misfortune unfolded:    

Smith, who works as a delivery person, had applied to work from home as a data entry clerk for the grocery chain Sobeys. He was offered the job, and was excited to receive an employment contract along with a cheque from his new employer for $3,495 to purchase a laptop, phone system, headphones and various other office equipment.

“It all looked totally authentic and real,” he said. 

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Smith had checked out the names of the people who handled his hiring, and reviewed their profiles on LinkedIn to confirm they worked at Sobeys. So when he received an invoice from a firm called Tech Insight Services for the office equipment, and was instructed by the Sobeys hiring manager to make a $3,000 payment right away, he promptly sent an e-transfer.

“I only had $800 or so in my chequing account at the time, but after depositing the Sobeys cheque, I had over $4,000,” he said. 

What Smith didn’t know was that the entire process was a sophisticated scam. The website where he’d applied, the supposed hiring managers, the cheque — all were fakes. His job application hadn’t been sent to Sobeys at all. He had fallen into a snare set to swindle eager job seekers. The cheque even fooled Tangerine; the bank instantly deposited it to Smith’s account.

Alarm bells didn’t start ringing until the next day, when Smith’s supposedly new employer told him he should send another $3,500 for a new desk. 

“At this point, I became suspicious because no one spends that kind of money on a desk,” he said. “I called up Tangerine and I said ‘OK, I deposited a cheque yesterday, you guys let me send the money. I’m concerned that this cheque is going to bounce.'” 

WATCH | Bank raids fraud victim’s account:

Go Public report investigates the banking rules that allow seizure of funds from different accounts. Check your account’s terms and conditions, it’s in the fine print under ‘right of offset.’ 2:09

Deep in the fine print

Smith learned quickly that the scammers had already accepted his e-transfer, and a Tangerine representative said that meant it was too late to cancel it. 

“He asked ‘Do you have money in your other accounts to make up for that?’ and I told him I didn’t want the bank to take money from those other accounts.”

Because his tax-fee savings account was registered with the federal government, Smith believed the money in it was untouchable. He was wrong.  

Deep in the fine print of the agreements many customers receive when they open a bank account is a clause known as the “right of setoff,” also sometimes referred to as the right of “offset.” It states that the bank has the legal power to seize funds from a debtor or guarantor of a debt.  Although that right may vary depending on the product or plan, it’s in most agreements; RRSPs and registered retirement income funds are typically exempt.  

This means if the bank accepts a cheque or another type of deposit that doesn’t go through as expected, and a customer withdraws or transfers the funds, the bank has effectively made a bad loan. It then has the right to access money in other accounts it holds for that customer, in order to recover its loss. There is no need to get authorization, or even alert the customer beforehand.

Shortly after the fake Sobeys cheque bounced, Tangerine took just over $3,000 from Smith’s account.  

The counterfeit cheque sent to Smith, from his supposedly new employer. He was told it was to cover the cost of home office equipment. (Submitted by Justin Smith)

Smith sent two letters of complaint to the bank, asking to be compensated, but was told each time that the bank is not liable for his loss, and that he should report the scam to police. 

Job scams have become common during the pandemic, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. CBC News reported on a similar scam that involved Sobeys in June. In that case, the victim’s bank, the Bank of Montreal, spotted the fraud and didn’t send the payment.

Sobeys is aware of the fake websites bearing its name, and said it is monitoring the web 24/7 to try to have them shut down. In a statement the company said anyone “looking to join the team or confirm the legitimacy of a job posting,” should check

Some good news

After being contacted by CBC’s Go Public team, Tangerine said it will refund the $3,000 to Smith, and also pay $250 for a credit monitoring service for him.

In an email sent to Smith that was shared with CBC News, the head of the bank’s client response group, Emery Sziraky, said: “We have conducted a comprehensive review of your recent experience with Tangerine and we deeply regret that we did not meet your expectations.”

The bank also emailed a statement to Go Public, saying it was “pleased” to have resolved the matter to Smith’s satisfaction. The statement included a warning about fraud, and said Tangerine “work[s] closely with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the Canadian Bankers Association, law enforcement, and counterparts at other financial institutions,” to ensure clients are protected.

A Tangerine bank location in downtown Vancouver. Tangerine is an online bank with few physical branches. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC)

But Doug Hoyes, an insolvency trustee in Kitchener, Ont., said all Canadians should be aware how common it is for banks to access customer accounts to recover their own losses.  

“It blindsides people,” Hoyes said. “I’ve seen it happen thousands of times.”

Hoyes said banks typically put a hold on large cheques deposited to the accounts of new customers; they are unable to access the funds until the cheque clears. But for longstanding, trusted customers, banks will often extend a form of credit and make funds available immediately.  

Hoyes said that most customers appreciate the ability to access deposits right away. 

“In most cases what the bank did is very helpful; ‘Hey, you put the money in, you can use it.’ But in this case, it backfired,” he said. 

A five- or even three-day hold on the cheque Smith had received would have stymied the scammers, but he was a longtime Tangerine client. He opened an account in the late ’90s when the bank was still called ING Direct, prior to a rebranding. So he was given instant access to funds.

Hoyes added that he often tells his own clients, all of whom have money problems, to set up bank accounts at two different financial institutions. “It is wise to have your assets at a different bank than your debts, if it’s possible,” he said. That way if a payment goes wrong in any way, the bank isn’t able to dip into other accounts on file, he explained.

As for Smith, he’s still eager to find a new job, and is grateful that Tangerine decided to do “the right thing.”

“I don’t want to make myself out to be a victim here,” Smith said. “I’m just trying to help other people not become a victim of these scammers or, quite frankly, become the victim of their bank.”

Insolvency trustee Doug Hoyes consults with a client in Kitchener, Ont. (Submitted by Doug Hoyes)

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National COVID-19 modelling shows cause for concern, even as B.C.'s curve flattens – CTV Edmonton



Despite a flattering curve, modelling shows British Columbians need to reduce their interactions to avoid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

According to Canadas’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, there is worrisome news from new modelling data that shows the pandemic’s growth is escalating rapidly in Canada, and Canadians need to restrict their social interactions or the problem will get worse.

“Unless public health measure are intensified, we will not be able to suppress the current rate of epidemic growth,” said Tam at a press conference on Friday.

The data projects almost 800,000 cases nationwide and nearly 20,000 deaths by Jan. 24.

While B.C. is faring better than other provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, Dr. Brian Conway of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre says we are far from immune to the trend of growing cases.

Conway says the modelling indicates British Columbians need to reduce our interactions to avoid a surge in cases.

“The model suggests that if we continue to act as we have in the previous few weeks that the cases, the number of cases, will continue to increase,” said Conway Friday after looking at the numbers.

Adrian Dix, B.C.’s Health Minister, struck a cautiously optimistic tone Friday, noting the province’s COVID-19 case numbers had flattened in recent days.

Although Dix indicated tighter restrictions didn’t appear likely anytime soon in B.C., he said what matters most is that folks stay vigilant.

“The virus isn’t interested in your orders or our speeches or anything else,” said Dix Friday in Victoria. “What’s more important is our actions.”

Adding to the uncertainty of the coming months, the modelling numbers do not take into account the more transmissible variants of the coronavirus recently discovered in the U.K. and South Africa and now present in Canada, including B.C., but only in very small numbers so far.

On Thursday, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it will be important to contain the cases of variants and identify them early.

“So it may be that we’re in a very similar place to where we were in February of last year, where if we can find them and catch them early we can prevent that variant from spreading,” she said.

Separate modelling to reflect the potential impacts of the variants will be done in the coming weeks. 

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Pfizer to resume COVID-19 vaccine shipments to EU within two weeks but Canada says no changes yet – Global News



Pfizer-BioNtech will be resuming shipments of its coronavirus vaccine to the European Union within the next two weeks, but there have been no more changes to Canada’s deliveries.

The pharmaceutical giant announced Friday it would be temporarily reducing the number of vaccines shipped in order to upgrade one of its facilities in Europe.

“We will be back to the original schedule of deliveries to the European Union beginning the week of January 25,” Pfizer said in an online statement late Friday. Arianna Podesta, a spokesperson for the European Commission, confirmed the revised schedule in an emailed statement to Global News.

As of Saturday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said there were no updates to Pfizer’s announcement, which saw vaccine shipments to Canada will be cut in half for the next four weeks.

Read more:
‘Temporary delay’ chops Canada’s deliveries of Pfizer vaccine in half for four weeks

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Canada’s shipment of Pfizer vaccines for the week of Jan. 18 remains “largely unaffected,” Anand said.

She added the federal government was in touch with Pfizer representatives to “reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible.”

“This is an evolving situation,” Anand said.

In response to multiple requests for clarification, Pfizer said “the principal of equity is used when considering allocation of doses worldwide and we expect to have more information in the coming days.”

The move has left many provinces scrambling to adjust their vaccine rollout plans. Some, like Alberta and British Columbia, have publicly expressed concerns over how the delays will affect their vaccine schedules. Manitoba has paused new vaccine appointments until the country is back on schedule.

In Ontario, health officials have extended the amount of time between administering the second dose of the vaccine up to 42 days after receiving the first, while Quebec will allow up to 90 days in between doses.

Anand noted that the delay in shipments will not affect Canada’s long-term goals of having enough doses to vaccinate everyone wants the vaccine by the end of September, saying that “this is a temporary reduction. It’s not a stoppage.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Fortin calls Pfizer delay a ‘bump in the road,’ but says Canada will still meet vaccine target'

Coronavirus: Fortin calls Pfizer delay a ‘bump in the road,’ but says Canada will still meet vaccine target

Coronavirus: Fortin calls Pfizer delay a ‘bump in the road,’ but says Canada will still meet vaccine target

“We are going to see continued vaccines coming in from Pfizer and of course Moderna over the next weeks, but there will be a reduction in doses, and that is the purpose of my being here,” she said Friday.

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“It’s going to be temporary, it’s not a loss, and we will make up those doses.”

So far, Canada has received about 380,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. Anand added that the additional 20 million doses Canada secured this week are still on track to arrive by Q2.

The news highlighted the importance of adhering to public health guidelines as reiterated by Canada’s top health officials calling for “further intensified” measures while presenting an updated COVID-19 federal modelling on Friday.

If Canada does not find a way to slow the spread of the virus, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the country could be facing 10,000 cases per day by the end of the month. The total number of cases could also increase by almost 100,000 by Jan. 24, and lead to upwards of 2,000 deaths, the federal modelling showed.

Over a short period of time, vaccinations will do little to curb the virus’ transmission. However, Tam said “if we ease measures too soon, the epidemic will resurge even more strongly.”


© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ontario allows second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to be delayed amid shortage – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



The Ontario government has updated its recommendation for when some people should receive the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after it was announced that there will likely be a shortage.

The new recommendation comes after the federal government announced earlier there will be a “temporary” delay of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments due to expansions of the company’s European manufacturing facility. It could result in a 50 per cent cut in shipments in January.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a statement on Saturday morning that long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents – and their essential caregivers – who received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine will receive their second dose in 21 to 27 days.

Staff who were vaccinated within the homes will also receive their second dose within this time period.

The government said that for all other people who received the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine they will now receive their second dose between 21 and 42 days.

People who received the Moderna vaccine will receive their second dose after the scheduled 28 days.

The vaccine adjustments align with the recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the government said.

Ontario was expecting to receive more than 160,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the final two weeks of January, a delivery schedule that’s now in doubt.

Health Minister Christine Elliott told CTV News Toronto on Friday the province is awaiting further details on the “the exact allocations” and the “timing of those allocations” but said the province is once again reserving vials of the vaccine to ensure second doses are administered.

“We have some in reserve to make sure that we are going to be able to do the second doses in the appropriate period of time. So no one needs to worry about whether they will get their second dose or not,” Elliott said.

As of 8 p.m. on Friday, 189,090 initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario.

-With files from CTV News Toronto’s Colin D’Mello

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