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Thief uses B.C. man’s identity to open fake bank account, apply for CERB

B.C. couple has identity stolen in CERB scam
Since the Canada Emergency Response Benefit was introduced, fraudsters have been taking advantage of the program. Consumer Matters reporter Anne Drewa has the story of a B.C. couple who had their identity stolen in a CERB scam.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says it continues to see an increase in scams related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Since the beginning of March, the centre has received reports of 1,250 cases of COVID-19 fraud, with a total loss of $1.9 million. The vast majority of it is identity fraud connected to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, also known as CERB.

Trevor Halliday of Maple Ridge, B.C., recently fell victim to such a scam, after a fraudster stole his identity and opened a bank account in his name.

READ MORE: CRA reviewing 1,300 tips about possible CERB scammers

He and his wife, Joanne, said they were shocked when they discovered a Tangerine bank card in the mail one day, with his name on it.

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“We open the mail and see this client card for a bank account we did not open [and did not] deal with this bank in any way shape or form,” Joanne said.

When the couple contacted the bank, they said they were told the card was linked to a fraudulent account.

Coronavirus outbreak: CRA, Service Canada working to determine number of ‘actual’ CERB fraud cases
Coronavirus outbreak: CRA, Service Canada working to determine number of ‘actual’ CERB fraud cases

A call to the Canada Revenue Agency revealed a scammer had also applied for the CERB in Halliday’s name, and cheques were being directly deposited to the fake Tangerine account.

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The Hallidays have both been working during the pandemic and have not applied for the taxable benefit.

“We were extremely worried,” Joanne said. “How much have they gotten? Are we going to have to pay it back? How do we prove it wasn’t us?

“We’ve got to get things stopped here.”

Trudeau proposes new legislation aimed at CERB fraud
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The couple said they’d received little information from Tangerine and the CRA. Consumer Matters reached out to Tangerine and received the following response:

“As Mr. Halliday was not previously a Tangerine client, his [Social Insurance Number] was never in our possession. In some cases, if a person’s identity is compromised by a third party, it may be used to help create a bank account.
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“In Mr. Halliday’s case, one of our existing safeguards alerted him and he did the right thing by contacting us, at which point we took immediate action and closed the account.”

READ MORE: Fraudulent CERB applications could land Canadians with $5K fine, jail time

The Canada Revenue Agency said it has seen a number of different scams all seeking to exploit the public’s anxiety around the pandemic.

“The CRA designed the CERB application processes to be attestation-based. This is similar to the approach used in tax filing, where individuals attest to the information they provide when they file their taxes, and the CRA may verify this information at a later date,” spokesperson Christopher Doody said.

Still, Halliday said he’s been left with more questions than answers. He and his wife hope his story will remind people to be extra vigilant.

“If you haven’t applied for CERB or if you haven’t received your CERB cheques, you should be following up,” Joanne said.

“We wouldn’t have found out about this until next tax season had this card not come to our address.”

If you are a victim of fraud, contact your local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. For more information on what victims can do, visit:  http://antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/scams-fraudes/victim-victime-eng.htm

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