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Miscellaneous: 12 Jun 2019
D’Amato: Someone stole $25,000 from vulnerable woman. Where’s the bank?
Somebody got into Karen McKenzie'scredit card and bank accounts last year.
| Luisa D’Amato Waterloo Region Record|
Cash advances totalling $28,500 were made from her credit card to her chequing account over two months. After no more could be advanced from the credit card, $26,100 was transferred to the chequing account from another one of her accounts, a couple of thousand dollars at a time.
Meanwhile, as that money was coming in, it was being electronically transferred out to someone else in dribs and drabs. Not all of her money is gone, but $25,620 disappeared over a five-month period last summer.
On just one day, May 7, 2018, eighte-transfers were made out of her account, totalling $2,750.
McKenzie, who lives in Kitchener on a disability pension of less than $990 a month, says she never knew about these transfers.
"I don't like people just taking the money out and not me being able to stop them," she said.
But her money is gone, and the bank won't put it back.
Friends from McKenzie's church, who are helping her with her claim, also agree she couldn't possibly have made an e-transfer herself.
"She doesn't even know what that is," said Bruce Buckingham.
Part of the problem is that McKenzie is vulnerable.
She's a widow. She doesn't have children who might check up on her and handle her affairs.
And she has epilepsy. The medication she takes makes her feel "a bit foggy," she said.
She doesn't remember looking at the statements a year ago that would have showed fast-increasing credit card debt and unauthorized transfers to someone she doesn't know.
Even if she had looked, she said she doesn't understand the statements.
It was only when she broke her hip in November and went to hospital, which caused friends and family to come to her home and pay her bills for her, that the problems were discovered.
She was taken to her bank, the TD branch at Stanley Park mall. Police were notified.
Most of the e-transfers from McKenzie's account were transferred to an account with the partial name Calvin. The investigators asked her about that. Who was Calvin?
"I don't know anyone by that name," McKenzie said. "I don't have any children. I don't have a husband. I don't have a brother or sisters."
In the end, the bank declined her claim for restitution.
"In order to complete the disputed transactions, the individual responsible had financial information that you are responsible for protecting," such as cards, cheques and passwords, said the letter to McKenzie.
But couldn't the bank have noticed this unusual activity and called her in to talk about it?
"It's very troubling for anyone to be a victim of fraud," said Carla Hindman, manager of TD corporate and public affairs in Toronto.
The bank "takes customer security very seriously, and fully investigates fraud claims made by our customers.
"We cannot comment on individual customer situations due to privacy, but we encourage any customers who have been victimized by fraudsters to report to the police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre."
Banks have sophisticated tools against fraud, but consumers also should protect themselves by accessing online resources.
You might think of this as just another hard-luck story. Someone who should have been more careful. But that would be missing the point.
McKenzie wasn't able to be more careful. She couldn't do more than she was capable of. And she isn't the only one.
As the population ages, there are more and more vulnerable people like her out there. People who are trying to keep up with the changes in technology but who barely have their heads above water. People who are in a precarious place, but who insist that they don't need help. And they don't — until they do.
Meanwhile, fraud artists and thieves are becoming more sophisticated. Automation is marching on, with money changing hands at the tap of a debit card or a few strokes of the keyboard. It's a challenging environment even for the strong, and a toxic one for the weak. We created it. What are we going to do about it?
Luisa D’Amato Waterloo Region Record/AA
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