Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Consumer alert: Debt reduction companies

Beware of "too good to be true offers"

OTTAWA, January 10, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) today issued a Consumer Alert on debt reduction companies. FCAC is warning Canadians: Be very cautious about companies that claim they can negotiate a deal with your creditors so that you will have to pay only part of your debt. This process is often called "debt reduction," "debt settlement," "debt relief" or "debt negotiation."

Consumers who are looking for information on dealing with their debt will find tips on getting out of debt on FCAC's website at

About FCAC

With educational materials and interactive tools, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) provides objective information about financial products and services to help Canadians increase their financial knowledge and confidence in managing their personal finances. FCAC informs consumers about their rights and responsibilities when dealing with banks and federally regulated trust, loan and insurance companies. FCAC also makes sure that federally regulated financial institutions, payment card network operators and external complaints bodies comply with legislation and industry commitments intended to protect consumers.

You can reach them through the FCAC Consumer Services Centre by calling toll-free 1-866-461-3222 (TTY: 613-947-7771 or 1-866-914-6097) or by visiting their website:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pocket Dials/Unintentional 9-1-1 Calls Putting Public at Risk, Impacting Police Resources

Police Say Unintentional Calls from Mobile Devices a Growing Problem in Ontario

TORONTO, January 9, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Police services across Ontario are seeing an increase in pocket dialed and unintentional 9-1-1 calls, which represent a serious threat to public safety and negatively impact police resources according to the Ontario 9-1-1 Advisory Board (OAB) and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP).

"With more and more people using mobile devices, our police services are reporting an increase in unintentional 9-1-1 calls and so-called pocket dials," said Inspector Paulo Da Silva of York Regional Police. "When unintentionally dialed calls are made to 9-1-1 call centres, they become a public safety issue and are a drain on law enforcement resources."

Pocket dials happen when a keypad on a mobile device carried in a pocket, purse, backpack, etc. is accidentally pressed. Unintentional 9-1-1 calls are generated from a mobile device and are not intended as emergency calls.

Unintentional 9-1-1 calls tie up phone lines that deliver 9-1-1 calls to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), which handle 9-1-1 calls. This negatively impacts a PSAP's ability to respond to real emergencies.

The Ontario 9-1-1 Advisory Board brings together police personnel to act as advocates for the 9-1-1 system in the Province of Ontario. OAB is partnering with the OACP to raise public awareness of the unintentional/pocket dialed calls.

The OAB and OACP have found that hundreds of unintentional/pocket dialed 9-1-1 calls are being received daily by police services across Ontario from cell phones and other devices where no emergency exists. For example:

...The Toronto Police Service received 1,227,791 calls to 9-1-1 in 2011. 1 in 5 calls were not valid emergencies. Pocket dials accounted for 107,748, or half of the false calls; misdialed calls to 9-1-1 (116,770) accounted for the remainder.

...York Regional Police received 97,886 unintentional 9-1-1 calls from wireless devices in 2011, accounting for 37.33% of all 9-1-1 calls received.

...London Police Service received 6,622 pocket dials from August to November, 2011, averaging 11.24% of total 9-1-1 calls.

...Peel Regional Police received 80,724 unintentional 9-1-1 calls from wireless devices between June 1st, 2011 and December 31st, 2011, accounting for 33% of the 9-1-1 calls received.

For every unintentional/pocket 9-1-1 call received, a 9-1-1 emergency telecommunicator must determine whether an emergency exists. Every second counts when someone is waiting for an emergency communicator to pick up a 9-1-1 call and dispatch police, emergency medical services, or fire.

"Citizens have the power to stop unintentional 9-1-1 calls from their mobile devices. It could be as simple as locking a key pad or putting the device in stand-by mode," said Chief Matt Torigian, President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. "Such actions do not impact a user's ability to receive a phone call, but may significantly reduce the chance of a pocket dial. To further reduce the pocket dial risk, users should not program 9-1-1 into their devices and should prevent small children from playing with such devices."

Someone who places an unintentional 9-1-1 call should stay on the line. Every 9-1-1 call is taken seriously. When a 9-1-1 caller doesn't respond, that could be a sign of trouble - a possibility an emergency responder can't ignore. Users are urged to let the emergency operator know it was a pocket dial/unintentional call. This will eliminate the need for the emergency operator to call back to determine if there is a legitimate emergency, saving precious seconds and allowing them to move on to the next emergency call.

Citizens can prevent pocket dials or unintentional 9-1-1 calls by:

...Locking keypads using the keypad lock feature. Keypad locks, some of which can be programmed to activate automatically, prevent a mobile device from responding to keystrokes until the user unlocks the keypad using a short combination of key presses.

...Turn off the 9-1-1 auto-dial feature, if your mobile device has one. To determine whether a device has this feature and how to turn it off, check the user manual or the manufacturer's website, or call the service provider.

...Refrain from programming a wireless device to speed or automatically dial 9-1-1.