Banks have systems in place to watch out for fraud. When they get an inkling a customer’s account may be in jeopardy from hackers or thieves, they usually act quickly to prevent financial losses and inconvenience.
But when Charlene Bourne of Oshawa went to use her Scotiabank debit card to make a purchase at a dollar store in late September, she found out her account was frozen. Scotiabank had shut it down.
Thieves had stolen more than $3,000 from one of her accounts and had charged tens of thousands of dollars to multiple credit cards, including a Scotiabank Visa card.
What Bourne did not know that day was that Scotiabank had access to information about possible fraud in her financial profile weeks earlier — key information she said they didn’t relay.
“I would expect someone from the bank to contact the client and let them know this is what they determined,” said Bourne, who is not only a customer, but also a former senior bank compliance officer and paralegal.
“That is a huge issue — we’re talking fraud,” she told Global News in an exclusive story.
Scotiabank admitted it became aware six weeks earlier that there were changes to Bourne’s account. Bourne learned in a telephone conversation with a bank manager what the bank knew and when.
“On Aug. 4, someone had access to your Scotia online profile. How they got access… the bank doesn’t know,” the manager told Bourne, who recorded the call for accuracy and passed a digital copy of it to Global News for review.
“They requested a card in your name, changed the address, and a card was sent to an address in Montreal … We had a slew of deposits from a third party into your bank account, that’s what alerted the bank.”
The manager said the bank was aware of these anomalies as of Aug. 23.
After initially learning of the fraud in late September, Bourne said she went to her bank and obtained a teller printout of her account activity. That document contained what she considers an important reference: “susp fraud,” a notation dated Aug. 31.
“They had coded my account as suspected fraud … and nobody contacted me,” she said.
“They obviously knew something was going on.”
Despite changing Bourne’s address from one province to another, without her consent, and placing a suspected fraud indicator on her customer profile, no one at the bank called or emailed Bourne to warn her to change a password or take any other precautionary steps to safeguard her account.
Scotiabank refused to speak to Global News about Bourne’s case citing privacy (Bourne had given blanket authorization to Global News to speak to the bank on her behalf in an effort to find out what happened and raise awareness).
In a statement, Scotiabank claimed it does take security seriously.
“To protect the security of our customers’ accounts, in instances where we obtain evidence of suspected fraud, we take immediate steps to suspend account activity,” the statement read in part.
“As an added layer of protection and to help customers monitor unauthorized activity on their Scotiabank accounts we offer free Scotia Info Alerts. In these instances, given the high potential that their contact information has been compromised, Scotia Info Alerts are the only way we can alert customers about suspected fraud on their accounts.”
However, Bourne, who is familiar with internal bank security systems and compliance rules, said the bank let her down. In addition, for weeks, Scotiabank did not return money that was stolen from her account, despite its repeated assurances.
After Global News got involved, Scotiabank gave back the money.
Bourne contacted police after finding out her money was stolen and she filed a criminal complaint with Durham Regional Police.
She warned other bank customers not to believe their bank is always acting in their best interest.