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In Canada, Complex Fraud Schemes Are Targeting Homeowners

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CANADA: Early this year, Toronto police announced they needed the public’s assistance in apprehending two people involved in a complex fraud scheme.

According to police, the individuals used forged identities to pose as city homeowners. They then sold the house and handed the keys to the unwitting new owners.

Meanwhile, the true house owners had been out of the country on business since January 2022.

After noticing their mortgage payments had vanished from their bank accounts, the out-of-town couple discovered their home had been sold without their knowledge.

The incident piqued the interest of many Canadians, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area and Vancouver, where real estate is considered a national obsession due to its high cost – the average home costs more than C$1m ($749,000; £620,000) – and scarcity of housing.

Similar stories from other Toronto property owners have since emerged, and investigators say these previously uncommon cases of property title fraud appear to be on the rise.

Housing Prices Have Increased In Canada

These types of cases are “definitely unique to this point in time,” according to Trevor Koot, CEO of the British Columbia Real Estate Association and a nearly 20-year industry veteran.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said, referring to the level of sophistication used to carry out these crimes.

What exactly is title fraud? How much has it increased in Canada?
Mortgage and title fraud are two common schemes involving home or property ownership.

According to Brian King of King Advisory International Group, a Toronto-based firm investigating white-collar crime, mortgage fraud is more common.

It is committed when a fraudster uses forged identification documents to obtain a second mortgage on a home they do not own, usually after the first mortgage has been paid off in full or nearly so.

Title fraud, on the other hand, involves tenants posing as the owner of a vacant home in Canada and selling it to serious buyers. This results in the property’s total title transfer.

If the home has title insurance, the real owner and buyer can usually get most of their money back. The insurance covers legal fees incurred during the process and aids in re-establishing ownership.

Mr. King stated that he had seen increased mortgage and title fraud frequency since 2020.

He said his firm had seen a “rash” of title fraud in recent years. In almost all cases, the homeowners lived elsewhere when fraudsters took over their property, in places such as the United States and China and Canada.

Title Fraud Is Rampant In Vancouver And Toronto

One of his clients, Mr. King said, was a couple who moved for work to the UK from Toronto canada in 2018. Their Canadian home was then sold from beneath them in 2022.

It was sold for C$1.7 million and had been completely renovated when they discovered it had been stolen last June. As of February, the couple was still canada working on getting their home’s title restored.

Between the 1960s and 2019, Chicago Title Insurance Company’s Canada branch saw only two cases of fraud – mortgage and title – according to John Rider, vice president.

They are currently dealing with dozens of cases, including at least five cases of title fraud, all in the Greater Toronto Area, which includes the city and surrounding municipalities.

Similar cases of title fraud have emerged in the province of British Columbia, which is home to Vancouver, where the average home costs C$1.1 million, albeit less frequently.

The BC Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA) reported two attempts at title fraud since 2020, only one successful. The public corporation added that it is only aware of one previous case in 2019 and two in 2008 and 2009.

It maintains that these fraud cases are extremely rare, even though the LTSA processes up to one million land title applications annually.

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The Same Things Are Happening All Over The World

A similar case made headlines in the UK in 2021 when a man in Luton returned home to discover that the house and its contents had been sold without his knowledge.

On the other hand, property fraud cases in the UK appear to be on the rise. The UK Land Registry data provided to the BBC show an average of 41 reported mortgage and title fraud cases over the last four years. Cases peaked at 50 in 2016-2017.

Why are there more reports of title fraud?
Experts are baffled as to why there has been such an increase in reported cases, particularly in Toronto.

Mr. King believes that virtual real estate transactions during the pandemic may have made it more difficult to detect fake identification documents. He also mentioned that the pandemic in canada had forced some people to stay away from their homes for longer due to travel restrictions.

Others have noted the increasing sophistication of the perpetrators, some of whom have been linked to organized crime and appear to understand the Canadian real estate system well.

According to Mr. Rider, the fraudulent IDs used in these transactions frequently appear authentic, and perpetrators will hire skilled actors to pose as homeowners and carry out the scheme.

“IDs are so easily faked now that they can’t be relied on to close a C$3 million transaction,” Mr. Rider said.

There is also the financial aspect of these crimes. Real estate in Toronto has appreciated significantly over the last few decades, with the average home costing C$198,150 in 1996. It was C$1.18m last year.

“It makes sense that there is a lot of emphases on where real estate is really valuable,” said Ron Usher, general counsel for the Society of Notaries Public in British Columbia canada.

There is no escaping the fact that we live in a time when everything changes.

“These are not easy crimes to commit and are frequently caught and stopped.”

He and others have called for a national investigation to determine the underlying causes and whether more can be done to protect Canadian homeowners.

SOURCE – (BBC)

 

Kiara Grace is a staff writer at VORNews, a reputable online publication. Her writing focuses on technology trends, particularly in the realm of consumer electronics and software. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for breaking down complex topics, Kiara delivers insightful analyses that resonate with tech enthusiasts and casual readers alike. Her articles strike a balance between in-depth coverage and accessibility, making them a go-to resource for anyone seeking to stay informed about the latest innovations shaping our digital world.

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Why Mount Rainier Is The US Volcano Keeping Scientists Up At Night

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Mount Rainier, Washington’s snowcapped peak that stands 4.3 kilometers (2.7 miles) above sea level, has not had a significant volcanic eruption in the last 1,000 years. More than Hawaii’s exploding lava fields or Yellowstone’s vast supervolcano, Mount Rainier has many US volcanologists concerned.

“Mount Rainier keeps me awake at night because it poses a significant threat to the nearby villages. “Tacoma and South Seattle are built on 100-foot-thick (30.5-meter) ancient mudflows from Mount Rainier eruptions,” said Jess Phoenix, a volcanologist and ambassador for the Union of Concerned Scientists, on an episode of CNN’s “Violent Earth With Liv Schreiber.”

volcano

Volcano | CNN Image

Why Mount Rainier Is The US Volcano Keeping Scientists Up At Night

The sleeping giant’s deadly potential does not stem from flaming lava flows, which, in the case of an eruption, are unlikely to spread more than a few miles beyond the boundary of Mount Rainier National Park in the Pacific Northwest. According to the US Geological Survey, most volcanic ash will likely drift downwind to the east, away from populated centers.

Instead, many scientists are concerned about a lahar, a fast-moving slurry of water and volcanic rock formed when ice or snow is rapidly melted by an eruption. Lahars gather debris as they run down valleys and drainage channels.

According to Seth Moran, a research seismologist at USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington, Mount Rainier’s tall height and ice and snow cover make it resilient to eruptive activity. “Hot stuff … will melt the cold stuff and a lot of water will start coming down,” he explained.

“And there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people who live in areas that potentially could be impacted by a large lahar, and it could happen quite quickly.”

A lahar is a rapidly flowing debris flow.
The deadliest lahar in recent memory occurred in November 1985, when Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupted. Just a few hours after the eruption began, a flow of mud, rocks, lava, and freezing water surged over the village of Armero, killing over 23,000 people in minutes.

In an episode of CNN’s “Violent Earth,” Bradley Pitcher, a volcanologist and Columbia University lecturer in Earth and environmental sciences, described a hardened, concrete substance that can be difficult to escape.

Pitcher stated that Mount Rainier had approximately eight times the amount of glaciers and snow Nevado del Ruiz had when it erupted. “There’s the potential to have a much more catastrophic mudflow.”

According to the US Geological Survey’s 2018 threat assessment, Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano is the most dangerous in the US, which is unsurprising given its proximity to the population and periodic eruptions. Mount St. Helens exploded violently in May 1980 and was voted second most dangerous, followed by Mount Rainier in third.

Lahars are most commonly associated with volcanic eruptions, but landslides and earthquakes can also create them. Moran said geologists have discovered evidence that at least 11 massive lahars from Mount Rainier have reached the surrounding area, known as the Puget Lowlands, over the last 6,000 years.

Scientists have not linked the most recent of these lahars, which occurred approximately 500 years ago, to any volcanic activity. According to analysts, the flow event could have been the result of a huge landslide on the mountain’s west face.

The loose, weak rock remains in that location, and Moran and other volcanologists are particularly concerned about the possibility of a similar, spontaneous landslide-induced lahar.

volcano

Volcano | CNN Image

Why Mount Rainier Is The US Volcano Keeping Scientists Up At Night

“We now know that the volcano can do it again. “And then we’re in this world where anything can happen at any time,” Moran explained.

“If it were the same size, it would be 10 minutes to the nearest places where people live and 60 minutes to the nearest significant settlements. “And those are very short time frames,” he added.

A 2022 study considered two worst-case scenarios. In the first scenario, a 260 million cubic meter, 4 meter deep (9.2 billion cubic feet, 13-foot deep) lahar would form on Mount Rainier’s west slope. According to Moran, the debris flow would be equivalent to 104,000 Olympic-size pools and could reach the heavily populated lowlands of Orting, Washington, roughly an hour after an eruption, moving at a rate of 13 feet (4 meters) per second.

According to the simulation, a second “pronounced hazard” area is the Nisqually River Valley, where a major lahar may displace enough water from Alder Lake to allow the 100-meter-tall (330-foot-tall) Alder Dam to spill over.

Mount Rainier’s neighbor, Mount St. Helens, farther south in the Cascade Range, erupted four decades ago, causing a disastrous lahar that did not reach any highly populated regions.

Venus Dergan and her then-boyfriend, Roald Reitan, were trapped in the Mount St. Helens lahar while on a camping vacation and are among the few persons known to have survived being swept up in a debris flow.

“I tried to cling on as we were swept downstream, but the tree bark was scraping. … During an interview for CNN’s “Violent Earth,” she recounted feeling it on her legs and arms.

“At one point, I went under the logs and dirt and accepted that this was the end. I was not going to get out of this, and I was going to die.

volcano

Volcano | CNN Image

Why Mount Rainier Is The US Volcano Keeping Scientists Up At Night

Following the explosion of Mount St. Helens, the US Geological Survey established a lahar detection system on Mount Rainier in 1998, which has been modified and expanded since 2017.

About 20 places on the volcano’s slopes and the two paths identified as most at risk of a lahar now have broadband seismometers that send real-time data and additional sensors such as trip wires, infrasound sensors, web cameras, and GPS receivers.

Moran explained that the device is designed to identify both a lahar if the volcano erupts in the future and a lahar caused by a landslide.

Because of the constraints of 1990s technology, the original system had limited bandwidth and power requirements, resulting in data transmission every two minutes.

In March, 45,000 kids from Puyallup, Sumner-Bonney Lake, Orting, White River, and Carbonado, Washington, took part in a lahar evacuation simulation. According to the USGS, this was the first time numerous school districts exercised on the same day, making it the world’s largest lahar drill.

Approximately 13,000 pupils walked up to 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) to specified areas outside of the defined lahar zone, while the remaining schools outside the lahar zone practiced sheltering in place.

Moran stated that the fail-safe components of the Lahar detection system are roughly 45 minutes away from the next significant community; thus, that was the time window within which communities had to work.

“Most of what happens at volcanoes is close by, and that’s why you try to keep people away because things happen fast, but lahars can travel a long way from the volcano and have a big impact.”

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Nearly 500 Confirmed Fatalities From Hajj Heatwave As Hundreds More Feared Dead

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The official death toll from this year’s Hajj pilgrimage has risen to around 500, but the true toll could be more than double that, with reports indicating that up to 600 Egyptian worshippers died on the way to Mecca in terrible heat.

At least 14 Malaysians, 165 Indonesians, 75 Jordanians, 35 Pakistanis, 49 Tunisians, 11 Iranians, and 98 Indians have died, according to officials in each nation. Another 27 Jordanians have been hospitalized, while about 14 are still missing, according to the Jordanian Foreign Ministry.

The US State Department stated that many US citizens perished on the Hajj trip but did not disclose a specific number. “We can confirm the deaths of several US Americans in Saudi Arabia. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families on their loss,” said a State Department official, adding that the government is ready to provide consular support.

Nearly 500 Confirmed Fatalities From Hajj Heatwave As Hundreds More Feared Dead

Dozens more Iranians have also been hospitalized for heatstroke and other ailments, according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.

According to CNN, the current official death toll from this year’s trip is at least 480.

The death toll is expected to grow significantly further, as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have yet to reveal official data. Furthermore, governments only know about pilgrims who have registered and traveled to Mecca as part of their country’s quota; further deaths are expected among unregistered pilgrims.

This year’s pilgrims endured dangerously high temperatures of up to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).

According to the Egyptian president, the crisis unit, led by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, will “provide support for families of the deceased.”

According to the statement, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has also directed the unit to “speedy coordination with Saudi Arabian authorities to facilitate the return of the bodies” of those who died.

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian cabinet on Thursday, the official death toll is 28. However, Reuters news agency and other agencies have reported that up to 500 to 600 Egyptians died on the route.

Egyptian officials said they were striving to compile an exact list of victims and missing persons. The disparity originates from the many unregistered pilgrims who are not considered among those who have registered and traveled to Mecca as part of their country’s quota.

Thousands more were treated for heatstroke as an estimated 1.8 million Muslims braved the sweltering weather.

According to The Associated Press, the Saudi Ministry of Health implemented safety measures such as cooling stations along the official route and encouraged pilgrims to use umbrellas and stay hydrated. Despite this, this year’s celebration was marred by tragedy, raising concerns about whether more could have been done to secure people’s safety.

Nearly 500 Confirmed Fatalities From Hajj Heatwave As Hundreds More Feared Dead

It also emphasizes the dangers posed to the many unregistered worshippers who wish to accomplish their religious duty but do not have Hajj permission and do not have access to official facilities.

At least 68 Jordanians who died of heatstroke while conducting Hajj rituals have been granted burial permission to be laid to rest in Mecca at the request of their families, according to Sufian Qudah, Head of the Jordanian Directorate of Operations and Consular Affairs.

Dr. Mohd Na’im Mokhtar, Malaysia’s Minister for Religious Affairs, stated that the majority of pilgrims died from “heart disease, pneumonia, and blood infection,” according to the state-run Bernama News Agency. The Bernama article did not clarify whether the deceased were part of the country’s official Hajj delegation.

On Friday, a spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs revealed the deaths of the 98 Indian nationals, saying: “These deaths have happened on account of natural illness, natural causes, chronic illness, and also old age.”

Nearly 500 Confirmed Fatalities From Hajj Heatwave As Hundreds More Feared Dead

On Saturday, the day when Muslims congregate at Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Mohammed is reputed to have delivered his final sermon, six Indian people perished from high heat, while another four died from “accidents,” according to the spokesperson.

In the aftermath of the fatalities, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied fired the country’s minister of religious affairs. Before his dismissal, Ibrahim Chaibi admitted the possibility of negligence in the care of pilgrims. “The negligence could have occurred. It will be present, and we will review it at the ministry level; whomever fails will face consequences,” Chaibi said on Friday.

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Climate Change Made Killer Heat Wave In Mexico, Southwest US Even Warmer And 35 Times More Likely

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Climate | AP news image

Washington — According to a new flash study, human-caused climate change increased the likelihood of this month’s deadly heat in the Southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central America.

Sizzling daytime temperatures that caused heat stroke in parts of the United States were 35 times more likely and 2.5 degrees hotter (1.4 degrees Celsius) as a result of warming caused by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, World Weather Attribution, a group of scientists who conduct rapid and non-peer reviewed climate attribution studies, calculated Thursday.

“It’s an oven here; you can’t stay here,” 82-year-old Margarita Salazar Pérez of Veracruz, Mexico, remarked from her home without air conditioning. Last week, the Sonoran Desert reached 125 degrees (51.9 degrees Celsius), the hottest day in Mexican history, according to research co-author Shel Winkley, a Climate Central meteorologist.

climate

Climate | AP News Image

Climate Change Made Killer Heat Wave In Mexico, Southwest US Even Warmer And 35 Times More Likely

According to Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London who leads the attribution study team, this heat wave was deadly because it was significantly worse at night. According to her, climate change has increased nighttime temperatures by 2.9 degrees (1.6 degrees Celsius) and the likelihood of extraordinary evening heat by 200 times.

Salazar Pérez explained that there hasn’t been any cold air at night like people are used to. Doctors think cooler night temperatures are essential for surviving a heat wave.

The World Weather Attribution team reports that at least 125 people have died so far.

“This is clearly related to climate change, the level of intensity that we are seeing, these risks,” said research co-author Karina Izquierdo, a Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre urban advisor located in Mexico City.

The most concerning aspect of this heat wave, which is still heating the North American continent, is that it is no longer considered unusual, according to Otto. The group’s previous studies had looked at heat so intense that it was unthinkable without climate change, but this heat wave was not so much.

“From a weather perspective, it wasn’t uncommon, but the consequences were actually very severe,” Otto told The Associated Press in an interview.

climate

Climate | AP news Image

Climate Change Made Killer Heat Wave In Mexico, Southwest US Even Warmer And 35 Times More Likely

“The changes we have seen in the last 20 years, which feels like just yesterday, are so strong,” Otto told me. Her research discovered that this heat wave is now four times more likely to occur than in 2000, when temperatures were roughly a degree (0.5 Celsius) lower than they are now. “It seems sort of far away and a different world.”

While other organizations of worldwide scientists — and the global carbon emissions reduction target agreed by governments in the 2015 Paris climate agreement — relate to warming since pre-industrial times in the mid-nineteenth century, Otto believes comparing what is happening now to the year 2000 is more dramatic.

“We’re looking at a shifting baseline – what was once extreme but rare is becoming increasingly common,” said University of Southern California Marine Studies Chair Carly Kenkel, who did not participate in the attribution team’s research. She stated that the analysis represents “the logical conclusion based on the data.”

The study examined a wide range of the continent, including southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, and Honduras, as well as the hottest five consecutive days and nights. Most of the area experienced those five days from June 3 to 7 and those five nights from June 5 to 9, but peak heat began on May 26 in a few areas, according to Otto.

On June 4, for example, San Angelo, Texas, set a record high temperature of 111 degrees (43.8 Celsius). According to the National Weather Service, from June 2 to June 6, the night temperature at Corpus Christi airport never went below 80 degrees (26.7 degrees Celsius), a record each night, with two days when the thermometer never dropped below 85 degrees (29.4 degrees Celsius).

According to the National Centre for Environmental Information, between June 1 and June 15, more than 1,200 daytime high-temperature records and almost 1,800 nighttime high-temperature records were tied or broken in the United States.

The attribution team utilized current and prior temperature observations to compare what is happening now to what happened in previous heat waves. They then used the scientifically acknowledged method of comparing models of a hypothetical world without human-caused climate change to present reality to determine how much global warming contributed to the 2024 heat wave.

The immediate meteorological culprit was a high-pressure system camped over central Mexico, which hindered cooling storms and clouds before moving to the Southwest of the United States, which is now delivering heat to the East, according to Winkley. Tropical Storm Alberto emerged on Wednesday and is expected to bring rain to northern Mexico and southern Texas, potentially leading to flooding.

climate

Climate | AP News Image

Climate Change Made Killer Heat Wave In Mexico, Southwest US Even Warmer And 35 Times More Likely

For months, drought, water shortages, and extreme heat have plagued Mexico and other regions. Due to the warmth, monkeys in Mexico have started dropping from trees.

According to Izquierdo and Kenkel, the current heat wave “exacerbates existing inequalities” between rich and poor in the Americas. The inequalities become most obvious in the night heat, as the capacity to cool down with central air conditioning is determined by how financially secure individuals are, according to Kenkel.

That means Salazar Pérez has been very uncomfortable during this heat wave.

SOURCE – (AP)

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