Another phone scam

Today, within the span of five minutes, I received two phone calls – one on my cell, from the Ottawa area code – and one on my landline from a toll-free number.

Both calls had the same message – they had detected “fraudulent activity” involving my Social Insurance Number and threatening me with arrest and prosecution. Both calls are scams, designed to get you to give up personal information starting with your SIN number.

From the website for Employment and Social Services Canada, a government agency:

Jun 28, 2019 – The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9 digit number that you need to work in Canada or to have access to government programs and benefits. A SIN is issued to one person only and it cannot legally be used by anyone else. You are responsible for protecting your SIN.

The only time you would use this number is when dealing with federal government departments, or when you get a new job. Even then, the employer doesn’t need it until you are hired.

If you get one of these calls, know they are looking for your information, probably in order to set up false identities, which could leave you, the actual holder of the card, is serious debt or trouble. My suggestion is hang up, or if you’ve let an unknown number go to voicemail, delete it.

Cat.

Yet another phishing attempt

Oh no! I recently received a text message about my debit card from CIBC – The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Here’s the message:

You have 1 CIBC alert, Your Debit Card that begins with ‘4506′. Unable to process further purchases; <Access Code>: LBCRIY. Promptly reply by responding with Y to this text.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way – I don’t deal with CIBC so don’t have a debit card, or access card to use its proper name. Right there I knew it was some sort of exploratory expedition. I already knew from the area code that it was from somewhere in the Toronto area, then used reverse lookup to check the telephone number and found it was an Oakville exchange. If you aren’t familiar with the Toronto area, Oakville is west of Toronto, on the shore of Lake Ontario and is the home of Ford Motor of Canada.

Okay, on to other things: It is possible that people will read this text and instantly respond as requested. The text contains the numbers ‘4506′ and some may see this message, get out their card to check the number and think “OMG! It must be real because they’ve got the first four numbers right!” Logical assumption, but wrong. Those first four digits of your access/debit card are just the identifier – 4506 is the code for CIBC – and other Canadian banks will have four digit codes starting with “4″ as well. Other countries may have a different first digit, but it will be the identifier..

My advice is simple: If you get this text (and I’ve had several from various banks I don’t deal with) just delete it. If by chance they should happen to hit on your bank, do the sensible thing. Don’t panic. Check with your bank. There’s a telephone number on the back of the card you can call. Stay safe and if you’re doubtful – ask your bank.

Cat.

How can you not know this?

Yesterday I took part in a study at a Toronto hospital. Part of the intake procedure involved completing a questionnaire for the Ministry of Health.

There were eight questions in total, most of the multiple choice variety. For all questions one choice of answer was “prefer not to answer” and one was “do not know”. What incenses me with this answer relates to the nature of the questions. First question asks what language would you feel most comfortable using when speaking with a health-care provider. There were 34 choices ranging from Amharic to Vietnamese, plus “won’t answer” and “don’t know”. How the hell can you not know what language you are comfortable speaking?

Next: Were you born in Canada? “Yes”, “No”, “won’t answer” and “don’t know”. I have a problem with that as well. How can you not know where you were born – not the city necessarily, but what country are you from??

There were two questions dealing with income – how much do you earn in a year? with six income brackets to choose from along with “won’t answer” and “don’t know”. The second question was the number of people supported by that annual income. For this one, you had to fill in a number, not answer or say you don’t know. You don’t know how many people your money supports? C’mon now. At a minimum, the numerical answer is one – yourself.

There were also two questions dealing with gender identity and sexual preferences. Okay, I’ll give you these two. Depending upon the age of the respondent, they may not honestly know what gender they believe themselves to be. It may not be the one assigned at birth. As for sexual preference, same thing applies. The respondent may be uncertain.

The other six questions though, deal with concrete facts – the language you speak and where you were born for example, so how on earth can you answer those six with “do not know”?

Am I the only one who finds the choice of “do not know” frustrating when offered as an alternative answer to a question asking for definite facts? And no, “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer.

Cat.

You need to worry about this

In late November 2018, I was asked by my doctor if I could be available for media interviews in late January. St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto had conducted a study of 120 trans people and found that, on average, trans people were 60% less likely to get screened for any form of cancer. The interviews with CTV network and Canadian Press were held this past Monday, January 21 and were related to the release of this study. The study itself was released on Wednesday January 23.

in my remarks, I stated that in my view, there were two main reasons for such a low screening rate. The first of these is a lack of training on the part of the medical profession. As I’m sure my trans readers are aware, many doctors and nurses have little or no training in trans health issues. Here in Ontario it is possible to change the gender marker on identification documents without having had any surgery. So, given that documents show one gender, and the appearance of the patient matches that identifier, the caregiver may not consider screening for certain types of cancer. For instance, if faced with what the documentation and appearance indicates “male”, the caregiver may not know the person in front of them was born female and consider screening for cervical cancer.

Again, if a transwoman is present, the idea of screening for prostrate cancer may not be considered.

The second problem lies within the trans population itself. I know that we are under pressure, often self-imposed, to blend in, or “pass” as our correct gender. The one place that can be a detriment is in our health care. First, let me state I’m fortunate in that my caregiver at St Mike’s is well-versed in trans medicine. Others may not have that luxury. If, as happens, you changed doctors after you transitioned, unless you’ve had a full physical exam with this new doctor, they may not be aware you were not born as you now present. And they won’t know this unless you tell them. I know that advice is probably not want you want to hear, but we’re talking about something that may save your life so maybe – just this once – you could break down that barrier you’ve erected between now and the past.

This is something you really do need to worry about.

Cat.

I’ve had trouble in the past posting links on WordPress, so if you want the links to both the televised interview and the print interview, just ask and I’ll provide them in a response to a comment.

C.

Consider all you like, you’re still wrong

I found this in the inbox of an email address I rarely use:

AMAZON

Dear Ghoward, Congratulations!
Because we consider you as one of our customer, we’d like to informe you that your rank on our clients list qualified you to get a spcecial FREE REWARD.
Click below to start

Start

This offer is limited*

If the English and spelling weren’t enough warning this is a phishing expedition, there are a couple of other things about this that scream “FAKE!” to me. First, I’ve never purchased anything from or through Amazon, so I couldn’t be a customer.

Second, it has been my experience that when (or if) you open an online account anywhere, you provide your full name, not just an initial. Therefore, any offers directly specifically to you would have your name and possibly other identifying details, not just the first part of your email address.

Next, I don’t use this email address much any longer as I changed my name about two years ago and set up an email account under my new name elsewhere. I couldn’t change the name on this one as it was originally set up for me by my son when he worked for the service provider.

Sorry Amazon or whoever is trying to run this scam, you can consider me “one of your customer” all you like, you’re still wrong and I’m not clicking on that “start” link.

If you receive this, even if you use Amazon religiously, check the little things like spelling, sentence construction and where the email is from. As I said, I didn’t click on the link, but I suspect it would have asked for details of my (nonexistent) Amazon account. Once they had that, they could run up my bill easily and probably very quickly.

DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT, ever click on suspicious links like this. Your bank account will thank you.

I wish all my followers and readers a very happy and safe 2019 and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Netflix phishing expedition

Received the following email in one of my accounts:

From:

NETFLIX

External images are not displayed. Display Images
Always display images sent from

We recently failed to validate your payment information we hold on record for your account,
therefore we need to ask you to complete a brief validation process in order to verify your billing and payment details.

Failure to complete the validation process will result in a suspension of your netflix membership.

We take every step needed to automatically validate our users, unfortunately in this case we were unable to verify your details.

This process will take a couple of minutes
and will allow us to maintain our high standard of account security.

Netflix Support Team

This message was mailed automatically by Netflix during routine security checks. We are not completely satisfied with your account information and required you to update your account to continue using our services uniterrupted.

I removed the email addresses to keep myself out of trouble with WordPress (again).
This is obviously an attempt to get me to provide them with personal and/or banking information. The first indicator of that is that it wasn’t addressed to me personally. If they want to verify my account information, surely they’d have my name at least. The second indicator this is a scam is quite simple really. I don’t have a Netflix account, so there is no information to be verified.

Also, the English is not what you would expect to find from a company such as Netflix. The mixture of tenses and the misspelling of “uninterrupted” are a dead giveaway this is not from their corporate account.

If you have a Netflix account and you get on of these emails, before you do anything, please, please, check it some other way before giving out any information.

Happy viewing and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.

Submissions wanted from LGBT and HIV communities

I’m a transwoman and my co-writer, a positive woman, are working on a project detailing how society treats members of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities at the various stages of our journeys. A few years ago, I spoke with a psychologist at CAMH in Toronto who thought such a book would be a great benefit to them in their work.

We have our own experiences to draw on, but would like to hear other people’s experiences. No names will be used in this and any submissions will be checked to remove any clues that might give away your location. For example, if a submission from Toronto refers to “streetcars”, that would be replaced with the term “public transit” and any route names or number removed. Additionally, specific cities will be removed and replaced with either the name of your province or state, or a more generic term such as “midwest” will be substituted. We will do everything we can to protect your identity.

We both have friends in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, so can call upon them for information, but that would be quite localized in scope. We need to hear from others, not just in Canada, but from anywhere. We especially would like to hear from transmen, for their experiences would no doubt be much different from my own. If you have generally found acceptance, great! Please tell us for that may give those just starting their new lives hope that things will get better. If you’ve experienced discrimination, or worse, please share that as well. Others need to know what pitfalls and danger may await them. Either way, we would like to share your story.

If you are willing to share your journey, you can send it to us at the following email address: 1outcastsofsociety@gmail.com Please remember the “1″ at the start of the address as the address without the numeral is taken.

Thank you,
Cat.

Is that your high point?

I first wrote of this years ago, when I was using Blogspot, but it continues to irritate me, so here goes again.

Ontario is one of those jurisdictions that allow personalized license plates. Maximum of eight characters – letters and numbers only. Some show a lot of creativity, such as the Volvo I saw flying past me on the highway one day, well in excess of the posted limit (he must have been, because I was) with the personalized plate “NONE”.

Then there are the ones specific to the vehicle displaying them, like the white Volkswagen Rabbit with the plate “IM LATE”. Good, but if the next vehicle happens to be a minivan, the context is lost. Or “RED BMW”. As long as that person keeps buying red BMWs, fine.

But the ones that really irk me are those that celebrate a past event in the owner’s life. That is when I ask the question posed in the title. For example, I saw a vehicle one day with “SSGT RCR”, which to any former member of the Canadian armed forces can only mean the person was a Staff Sergeant in the Royal Canadian Regiment. For my non-military readers, the RCRs are a much decorated infantry regiment. As I said, with that plate, I have to ask whether the high point, the highest accomplishment of the owner, was being a non-commissioned officer in the army. What about all the years since? Has nothing else of import happened in your life since you left the service? I’m not denigrating anyone’s service to their country, I served myself, first in the Royal Canadian Engineers, then in the militia with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. But, I’m not going to get a personalized plate that reads “CPL QOR” to celebrate that fact.

No, I have something else in mind were I to get a personal plate. When I drove a cab, one customer, also a friend, told me she had my phone number listed on her cell phone as “leggy bitch” (I wore a lot of miniskirts in the cab – helped greatly with tips), so in order to avoid the censors in the Ministry of Transportation, I’d ask for “LG BEECH”. At the time, my cell phone number spelled out “legs”, so that plate would have seemed appropriate. At the moment, I have what the ministry calls “tourism plates” because they have Ontario’s official flower, the trillium, on them.

If you want personalized plates, go for it! But I would ask you to consider not commemorating something from thirty years ago.

Cat.

I think it’s cursed – update

Situation resolved.

To understand how this whole thing came about, we need to return to early 2005, when I was still driving a cab. The owner of the cab wasn’t great with maintenance, both major and minor, and I bugged him for about three days to replace a headlight that was out. Well, he didn’t and one night in Toronto I was ticketed for that non-working light. Since he hadn’t changed the lamp when asked, he said he’d pay the ticket for me. That turned out to be something else he didn’t do.

I didn’t learn of this until several months later when I was stopped while driving a friend’s car. The officer ask me if I knew my licence was suspended and of course I didn’t as I had never received any notification of that fact. He could have given me a ticket for driving with a suspended licence, but instead just confiscated the permit. With the confiscation, there went my only acceptable form of photo ID.

The Ontario health card contains a photo but is not acceptable as photo ID for privacy reasons. Years passed and I was never asked to produce photo ID, so I never gave a thought to my lack of acceptable photo identification.

Jump now to 2013. Thanksgiving in Canada is the second week of October. That was also the weekend in 2013 the Ontario government quietly slipped out legislation revising the requirements for changing gender markers on provincially issued documents. Since surgery was no longer required (I couldn’t have it for other health reasons) I jumped all over this and sent the form, required documents and the fee – always a fee when dealing with governments – to the Registrar-General for Ontario. Six weeks later I had my documents showing me as legally female. I took these documents to Service Ontario to revise my health card and while there decided to apply for the Ontario photo ID card. Two months later I had both a new health card an an Ontario photo ID.

This year, as I wrote in “I think it’s cursed”, I decided to change my name to reclaim my family name. Again, as I wrote, the Fraud Unit took interest in my application for a new ID card. This past weekend, while trying to go to sleep, my mind wandered over a possible reason why the Fraud Unit might be suspicious when I realized it had to be that it was only three years since I first applied for an ID card.

Monday morning I called my MPP’s office and explained what I thought might be the reason for the investigation. She relayed my information to her contact at the appropriate ministry. Later that day, she phoned me back to advise she had received an email from the ministry that read “based on this new information, we will be processing the application. Delivery should be in about six weeks.”

So because I forgot a simple action from three years ago, I worked myself into a migraine worrying about the fraud investigation.

Cat.

I think it’s cursed

Twenty years ago, when I left the family home to begin my transition, I changed not only my first name, but my surname as well to give my family some privacy.

Now, two decades later, things have changed. My ex-wife has gone back to her maiden name and through research one of my sons learned we’ve been in British North America since about 1850. Given these events, I decided it was time to reclaim my family name and heritage.

In accordance with my mother’s wishes, I also changed my first name to that which she had been going to call me had I been born female.

In Ontario, name changes are relatively simple. The forms are available online and are the “fill and print” variety. Filled it, printed it, then ran around getting the necessary signatures and a stamp from a Commissioner of Oaths (cheaper than a notary) as well as a money order for the required amount and sent the whole mess to the Registrar-General’s office. I knew it would take about six weeks to get the new birth certificate under normal circumstances. My circumstances turned out not to be normal.. A month later a large package was in my mail. The magic fingers had mis-typed my address at one point and they also wanted a criminal background check on the name I had chosen. They didn’t ask for that on the form, but they wanted it.

Phoned the police department and spoke with a lady who does the checks and explained my problem: “how am I supposed to get a background check on a person who doesn’t exist?” She told me how to do it, so off I went to my local station, filled out the form and paid the fee. Two weeks later I received the form back, properly stamped and sealed by the police department. Repackaged everything and sent it back to the R-G. Two weeks later, the R-G sent it back. This time the problem was that the teller hadn’t signed the money order and enough time had passed that the Commissioner’s stamp and signature was stale-dated. Off to the bank for a signature, then over to Ajax Town Hall to have the Commissioner sign a new form. Packaged it again and once more into the mail to the R-G.

Finally, after almost a year, I received my new birth certificate and official change of name certificate. I next took these documents to a Service Ontario location (one-stop shopping for all provincial documents) in the county seat and applied for a new health card and Photo ID. The health card took about two weeks, but the photo ID never arrived.

After a month I contacted the office of my local Member of Provincial Parliament (state congressman in the US) to find out who I should talk with. The assistant said she’d look into it for me. She called me yesterday afternoon to explain the delay, and I must admit what she told me has made me slightly paranoid. According to her information, issuance of the card has been delayed because the Fraud Unit of the Ontario Provincial Police is looking into it.

My first question is this: If the criminal background check came back clean for both my previous and current names, and the R-G’s office didn’t find anything, why is the Fraud Unit looking into it? To my knowledge, I’ve never defrauded anyone of anything. My eldest son has suggested that perhaps that I’ve changed names twice in twenty years is considered a red flag. I don’t know. I just hope they do eventually decide to talk with me about this and say more than “you’re under arrest for fraud.”. Otherwise, I’m going to start thinking my new name is cursed.

Cat.