When Chris Eggers and his wife signed up for an in-store text message promotion at a Toronto Shoppers Drug Mart, they thought they’d collect extra PC Optimum points.
Instead, Eggers alleges, hackers stole them all.
“Every week, [PC Optimum] would text me, ‘See if you’re a winner and click on the link!'” he explained.
“One of the links I clicked, and I still have the text, asked me to enter my PC optimum information.”
So, Eggers, 37, entered the couple’s log-in details.
“I believe it is at that point that my identity was compromised,” he told CBC Toronto.
All the text messages came from the same number. But only one, he says, asked him to enter his account information.
A few days later, the couple was alerted that all their points had been cashed in.
“My wife got emails saying that our PC Optimum points were being redeemed at Vaughan Mills Mall, 600,000 of them,” Eggers explained.
“And so, of course, we panic, you know, try to open the app and change everything, but at that point it was all gone.”
Hackers redeemed more than $1,100 worth of points
Emails the couple supplied to CBC Toronto show a total of $1,149.99 worth of merchandise was redeemed at the Shoppers Drug Mart located in the Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre in Vaughan, Ont. north of Toronto.
Eggers notified Loblaw Companies Ltd., the corporation that operates the PC Optimum program, and has since filed a report with York Regional Police.
Scammers have targeted the reward system before.
Two years ago, CBC News interviewed eight people across Canada who said they’d each had more than 100,000 points stolen from their accounts after Loblaw merged its two rewards programs — PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum — to form PC Optimum on Feb. 1, 2018.
The reported thefts are just one more problem plaguing Loblaw, which was already dealing with technical glitches involving PC Optimum, and fallout from a bread price-fixing scandal, including the related controversy over asking some people to send their ID to collect a $25 gift card as compensation for the overpriced bread.
No connection to text promotion, Loblaw says
When the company replied to Eggers days later, he was told his email had been compromised and there was no connection to the in-store text promotion.
That’s something Eggers still has trouble accepting.
“I don’t believe that because if somebody was going to compromise my email, then they would have gone after my banking,” he said.
“It’s quite a leap to think that when you get into somebody’s email that they have a Shoppers Optimum and that’s … the cherry they want to pick.”
In a statement to CBC News, Loblaw says the company reviewed screen shots of Eggers’s contest text messages and related links and has “not found any site/page that asked for PC Optimum account information.”
“The links provided simply show a promotional code,” the statement reads
Loblaw apologizes for ‘the inconvenience this has caused’
However, the retailer does acknowledge recent “smishing campaigns” — text messages asking for information, claiming to be from PC Optimum in recent months.
“We’re still reviewing to see if that could be the case in this instance,” the company said, adding their investigation is ongoing.
“We are committed to understanding the scenario and how we can best help our customers moving forward.”
Loblaws says representatives have worked with Eggers and his wife to restore their points and secure their account.
The company also says it apologizes for “the inconvenience this has caused [for the couple] and the delay in resolving it.”
Eggers says he’s happy to have their points back but worries others could have also been hacked.
Business sentiment in Canada improved over the summer but remains near historical lows as uncertainty around the path of the virus curbs demand and sales prospects, according to the Bank of Canada.
The results from the autumn Business Outlook Survey show businesses report conditions have improved as warmer weather and lower Covid-19 case counts encouraged consumers to go out and buy goods and services. However, businesses are still worried about future demand and sales prospects with some economic restrictions still in place.
“Firms reported their sales prospects are limited by weak demand and precautionary health guidelines, and that their investment and hiring plans remain Modest due to elevated uncertainty,” the central bank said in the survey, which took place between Aug. 24 and Sept. 16.
The tone of the survey is consistent with the Bank of Canada’s view that a full recovery will be long and difficult. The economy rebounded more quickly than expected in the summer as containment measures were lifted but the second phase of the recovery — known as the “recuperation” phase — will be uneven and protracted.
The composite gauge of sentiment rose to -2.2 in the third quarter, from a decade-low of -6.9 last quarter. While that’s a substantial improvement, the reading is still the second-lowest since 2016.
Although the survey was completed recently, economic conditions have changed as Covid-19 cases rapidly rose, particularly in the country’s two largest provinces. Ontario and Quebec reimposed containment measures on some businesses and activity in recent weeks in response to the second wave which will keep a lid on demand and hamper economic activity through the fall and winter.
Recovery remains uneven across industries: One third of firms reported sales were mostly unaffected or positively affected by COVID‑19; a second third of firms indicated sales have already fully recovered or will recover within the next 12 months; final third either expect their sales won’t return for at least 12 months or are unsure when sales will fully rebound
Businesses that say sales won’t recover within a year typically linked to tourism and related industries where physical distancing is difficult
Meanwhile, businesses linked to real estate, infrastructure and natural resources have largely recovered or see themselves recovering within a year
Capacity constraints appear to be back to historical averages, but the central bank says most firms facing constraints see them as temporary or not broad-based
Despite the rebound in the capacity gauge, BOC concludes: “Results for capacity and labor pressures suggest that the economy continues to have excess capacity and labor slack, although these have narrowed since the summer survey”
Investment intentions improved from previous quarter, but remain weak — below historical averages
Employment intentions have also rebounded, though they remain slightly below historical averages. It’s an uneven trend. “Almost one-third of businesses — generally those that are dependent on tourism or facing weak demand — expect their workforce levels to remain lower than before the pandemic for at least the next 12 months or to never fully return”
Wage growth is expected to slow, the survey found
Firms expect input prices to grow at a slightly faster pace over the next 12 months, driven by increases in commodity prices, difficulty sourcing inputs, or higher operating costs due to health guidelines
Businesses have slightly higher inflation expectations, with 11 per cent of firms expecting inflation above 3 per cent
Oil prices were slightly down early on Monday as an OPEC+ panel is meeting virtually to discuss the latest supply and demand developments, while underwhelming economic data from China and stricter measures to fight COVID-19 in Europe weighed on oil market sentiment.
As of 08:32 a.m. EDT on Monday, WTI Crude was down 0.20 percent at $40.78 and Brent Crude traded down 0.26 percent on the day at $42.81.
Prices held relatively steady in the morning as investors await the outcome of the monthly meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) at which several OPEC+ ministers are discussing the latest market developments amid speculation whether the group should proceed with easing the cuts as of January, considering that the second COVID-19 wave sweeping through Europe and threatening to derail economic and oil demand recovery. The JMMC panel is not expected to take any action, but comments during and after the meeting could swing oil prices in either direction.
“Given the JMMC is made up of just a handful of OPEC+ members, we will likely have to wait for the full group meetings on the 30 November and 1 December for any concrete decision, though that does not mean that there won’t be plenty of noise around what OPEC+ might do,” ING strategists Warren Patterson and Wenyu Yao said on Monday.
Economic data out of China was not constructive for oil prices today, as economic growth in the third quarter—while accelerating from Q2—missed analyst expectations.
“With prices stuck in the low $40’s and global coronavirus cases spiking again, the group – despite Russian wishes to increase production – needs to tread carefully. The potential for a U.S. relief package remains alive, but the impact, given rising coronavirus cases, may be limited. Brent is currently stuck in a $41.50/b to $43.50/b range,” John Hardy, Head of FX Strategy at Saxo Bank, said on Monday.
The Ontario government has released a new proposal to dramatically change how recycling is handled in the province — one that transfers responsibility for dealing with waste to producers.
The concept, called extended producer responsibility (EPR), would replace the current blue box system with the goal of ensuring that producers take on the full financial and operational responsibility for the end-of-life management of what they sell to Ontarians.
“The government’s intention is for producers to be responsible for designated products and packaging, including compostable materials,” the proposed plan states.
The government also wants to expand the list of materials accepted in the blue box to include items like paper and plastic cups, as well as other single-use plastic items.
The City of Toronto, which has indicated its desire to join the program, has said in reports that EPR would mark a “fundamental change” in how it deals with waste and it will also affect what homeowners pay.
It’s still unclear how much solid waste bills would change as a result.
Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s environment minister, has previously said the change will save municipalities millions of dollars and encourage the industry to minimize and improve packaging. The government pegs the savings to all municipalities at $135 million per year.
Environmental groups, however, have urged the government to get the change right and are already suggesting they have concerns.
“The thinking at this point is really focusing exclusively on residential waste — it’s potentially going to see some Ontarians not receiving recycling service, and we have some concerns about the way the recycling targets have been established,” Ashley Wallis, the plastics program manager at Environmental Defence, recently told CBC Toronto.
Monday’s announcement comes as Canada starts marking waste reduction week.
CBC News has done a series of stories looking at the successes and failures of recycling and waste management. You can find more here on our “Rethink Recycling” page.
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