In my last post I detailed what happened to my mother when she was scammed out of most of her life savings. Since then I have been working to do whatever I can to get her money back and have the banks involved admit they need to do better.
Thankfully the Bank of Montreal has reimbursed her the funds she was scammed out of and acknowledged they will be looking into how they can better protect their customers. I applaud them at being so easy to deal with. They were on this so fast once they were aware it was just incredible.
The Royal Bank on the other hand has been a nightmare. We started with the location where she made the withdrawal. She has been a customer there for many many years. They felt that asking a single question where she provided a questionable answer was sufficient protection so they would do nothing. They then pushed us off to someone in Manitoba who informed her she was a not a victim of fraud, it was phishing. We next went to the Client Care Department, who directed us to the Ombudsman.
I emailed the CEO and Ombudsman. The CEO never did respond and the Ombudsman couldn’t look at it until after Client Care closed their investigation, even though Client Care had already directed us to them. Frustrating is an understatement.
Two months later we finally made it through to the Ombudsman reviewing and rendering a decision process. They noted that Client Care stated ‘…you provided a plausible explanation…The fact that you did not provide the true purpose of the transaction to the branch staff…you did not provide branch staff the opportunity to provide the advice…’
Her reason for withdrawing her life savings was that she wanted to look into buying medical treatments for her son, not that she wanted to pay for them but that she wanted to look into it. Why didn’t they say well, why don’t you wait until you know if you can? That may have saved her in that moment but instead they just said OK.
These scammers tell you to provide a ‘plausible’ explanation and to not reveal the true purpose of your withdrawal. That’s part of the scam. Her saying she wanted to look into it was her way of indicating that something wasn’t right. As the Ombudsman noted ‘It is evident that there are differences between you and RBC in this matter’. RBC assigned benefit of the doubt to itself which in turn demonstrated clear bias and put my mothers credibility in question.
The Ombudsman rendered it’s decision referencing the Personal Deposit Accounts Disclosures and Agreements stating ‘At time of your visit to complete the withdrawal, your identification was authenticated by the branch with your client care Personal Identification Number.’ Because she did this they found the Bank made no error. They acted within their authority as per the client/bank agreement.
At no point did we say the Bank made a mistake, what we did say was that they did not sufficiently protect their client. Asking a single question to a senior who has never made large withdrawals is not good enough to prevent people from falling victim to scammers, in fact it enables the scammers.
Following the Ombudsman’s decision we elevated it to the ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office. Ultimately even if her funds weren’t going to be reimbursed, we at least wanted them to acknowledge that they failed her and need to do better in the future. Their policies and procedures aren’t good enough in today’s world.
The ADR has no authority to affect change in policy and procedure for a particular bank and while they were sympathetic to what happened (something RBC was not) their hands were tied in that the bank used the Personal Deposit Accounts Disclosures and Agreements and her use of her PIN in rendering their decision.
This whole experience has been frustrating and scammers rely on the lax policies and procedures of banks like the Royal Bank to continue to prey on the vulnerable. Banks like the Royal Bank really aren’t much better than the scammers. They both want your money and neither has your best interests at heart.
I wouldn’t recommend the Royal Bank to my worst enemy. They have been impossible to deal with. If I could somehow replace my mother’s lost funds I guarantee you they wouldn’t be deposited in any RBC branch. I have been having those moments where I wish I would win the lottery just so I could walk in and tell them to piss off, a Julia Roberts moment if you will. The only people RBC cares about are the money people. They don’t care about the regular Joe like you and me.
I don’t know where I go from here, but I won’t give up. Banks need to do better, especially for their senior and any other potentially vulnerable clients. Every bank employee should be up to date on current scams. Knowing that these lowlifes scare people by keeping them on the phone the entire time should be common knowledge in the banking industry.
It shouldn’t be that easy to withdrawal everything you have. She would have been asked more questions buying $500.00 in gift cards at the grocery store.
The battle goes on!
I encourage everyone to ask their bank what they would do in the type of situation. Are you really as protected as you think you are?
Don’t think this can happen to you or a loved one? You’re wrong.