Bank security questioned after Alberta small business owner is scammed out of $65K

Click to play video: 'Alberta business owner urges banks to step up security after she was scammed for $65K'
Alberta business owner urges banks to step up security after she was scammed for $65K
An Alberta small business owner is calling on the largest bank based in the province to up its security after she was scammed out of $65,000. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, she’s only one of a growing number of Canadians who have filed fraud complaints against their financial institutions. – Dec 11, 2023

ATB Financial, Alberta’s largest financial institution based in the province, is under fire after one of its small business clients said she was scammed out of $65,000.

Lisa Singh told Global News it all started in late March when she attempted to log in and authenticate her ATB business account.

“I wasn’t able to get into my account,” she said. “I was told my phone number wasn’t correct and I couldn’t provide the right transactions to authenticate me.”

Singh assumed it was a technical glitch, but she soon learned it was a result of something much more nefarious. Her profile had been taken over, she was locked out, and the scammers were draining her account.

“Someone had gone into my account two minutes after I had logged in and changed my phone number,” she said. “So, they were getting the (notification) texts.”

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“There was over $65,000 taken out of my account by e-Transfers, wires and bill payments.”

Singh said she worked tirelessly to get ATB to refund her lost money — even contacting the company’s president — but said it was challenging even though the bank launched a fraud investigation.

“It took six months — six months — to get an answer,” she said. “I’ve had to fight every step of the way. I had to keep contacting and keep contacting them.”

“They were able to recover some of the funds but there was still over $26,000 that was not recovered, and they advised they are not going to be paying that to me.”

Again, Singh complained and pointed out she had done nothing wrong. She said ATB’s vice-president told her the phone had likely been infected with spyware. The institution was able to recover an additional $3,500 and offered her half of the more than $22K still missing.

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“I’m asking for the rest of my money to be returned,” she said. “And I think they need to put some steps in to make sure that this doesn’t happen to other people.”

“You’re trusting the bank to take care of your funds. You’re putting your money in there, trusting that they have your back and that wasn’t the case.”‘

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Lisa Singh warns others after being scammed $65K. Tomasia DaSilva

ATB Financial, which has fraud advice on its website, told Global News it was not able to comment on any specific case due to privacy.

However, it said in a statement, “ATB is committed to ensuring the security of our client’s information and banking. Our fraud environment is dynamic and like all financial institutions, ATB continues to work towards the highest security standards.”

“We provide our clients education on these risks and we work closely with our clients who are impacted by online account takeovers to support each unique case.”

ATB added to reduce the impact of phishing or scam activity, it deploys two-factor authentication to ensure clients authorize the activity that is being attempted on their account(s).

Bank fraud cases on the rise

OBSI, Canada’s Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments, told Global News there has been a significant growth in banking fraud cases from 2019 to 2023. While that growth is in large part to amendments to the Bank Act, fraud complaints have been skyrocketing.

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In 2019, there were a total of 43 fraud cases filed with OBSI, with 17 per cent of banking case complaints being related to fraud. In 2023, those numbers rose to 951 and 40 per cent respectively.

Global News also asked what the responsibility of financial institutions is to get consumers their money back.

“Contrary to some people’s expectations, financial services firms do not automatically reimburse money when someone becomes a victim of fraud – either when a fraudster accessed their account or when they have sent money to a fraudster,” we were told.

OBSI said whether the firm should or will reimburse clients for the fraud-related loss depends on how the fraud occurred, adding it will investigate and assess whether the client’s actions played a role in the outcome and whether the client has complied with the terms of your account agreement and acted reasonably.

OBSI said clients will not be considered responsible for the loss if:

  • You took all reasonable precautions to keep your password and personal information confidential, but someone still accessed your account and initiated a transaction you did not authorize.
  • You reported any loss of your cards or disclosures of personal information to the firm as soon as possible.
  • The firm’s technology or security measures failed, leading to the fraud.
  • The firm had reason to suspect that you might be exposed to fraud but did not act.

“If the losses arise from circumstances beyond your control and you complied with the terms of your account agreement and acted reasonably, financial firms will typically reimburse your losses.”

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Singh said she is exploring her legal options to get back the funds ATB didn’t reimburse her with.

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