Frequently we hear about scams perpetrated online: victims, often falling for a pitch that sounds good but turns out to be an expensive lesson in caveat emptor.
But in this case, two Canadian banks were duped in person — releasing money that belonged to a high-value customer.
How did it happen? Someone apparently faked his identity, went to the banks bearing bogus documents, and walked away with cash and a bank draft. Total damage? More than $45,000.
“It’s very troubling for anyone to be a victim of fraud. Our colleagues are trained to look for signs of fraud and it’s critical that both customers and financial institutions work together vigilantly to fight fraud,” said Carly Libman, senior manager of corporate and public affairs at TD, wrote in an email to Global News.
“When an incident is brought to us we work quickly to conduct an investigation to confirm whether it is fraud and the customer is fully compensated for their loss.”
Andrew, a Toronto-area customer, was defrauded in early November. Global News agreed not to publish his last name because the man remains concerned that his compromised identity may lead to additional fraud.
“Their job is to secure money. If you put it there, you think there’s enough controls in place that this shouldn’t happen,” he said.
“At a branch level, I think the training is lacking.”
The other bank, BMO, told Global News it has “systems and processes in place” to protect customers. Although those systems didn’t prevent the bank from improperly releasing $20,000 of the customer’s cash to the impostor at a branch in Markham, Ont.
“While our investigation into the matter is ongoing, we reimburse customers as quickly as possible after we determine they were impersonated,” said Julie Smithers, senior manager of enterprise media relations with BMO Financial Group.
Andrew, the customer, filed a criminal complaint with York Regional Police.
He said based on discussions with the banks, the funds were released to the impostor based on a fake Ontario driver’s license and counterfeit Ontario birth certificate.
At BMO, Andrew said he was told by branch staff that the scammer opened two fake accounts in his name before initiating the withdrawal from his bank account.
The banks, he said, have video footage of the impostor, who bore a physical resemblance.
“Around my age, he was Asian, he said he was me,” said Andrew, who was born in China.
Since the fraud, Andrew has visited all major financial institutions to report the impersonation.
He also tightened up security at those institutions where he has an account. Those procedures include adding additional security precautions and insisting banks don’t release any of his funds without seeing his bank card. In each of the cases of fraud, a bank card was not required.
Since Global News contacted the banks, TD has agreed to return money to Andrew. BMO has not yet taken that step.