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B.C. senior prepares to move due to devastating effects of fraud

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A Courtenay, B.C., senior is downsizing and packing to move as she comes to accept she can no longer afford to stay in her home, after falling victim to a scam that robbed her of her life savings worth more than $100,000.

“I have to get rid of some excess furniture because I won’t have the space,” says Peggy Christian. “We’re doing okay with it. I think it’ll be a good thing for me.”

The 76-year-old needs the win.

Christian went public with her story in February 2024 – claiming fraudsters told her they could fix her computer for $200. The scam progressed over months where she was paying with gift cards and withdrew her investments to send wire transfers abroad.

Since then, Christian and her family say her health continues to suffer.

“The trust that we may have had years ago for people is not there anymore,” says Christian.

“She hasn’t been sleeping, and very anxious, and some depression. It’s really hard to see this happen to my sister,” says Christian’s sister, Judy Huska.

The Vancouver Island woman is becoming versed in the banking industry, trying to advocate for change where it could help others.

“It’s not just about the compensation and helping my sister get some of the money back. But also: What’s the responsibility and the accountability of the bank? And can we bring that to the forefront so that they don’t let this happen to somebody else,” says Huska.

Coast Capital is the financial institution where Christian withdrew her funds. The member-owned financial co-operative issued a statement to CTV News, in part, saying it cannot speak to individual situations, members or their accounts for privacy reasons.

“We take these matters very seriously, investigating each case thoroughly,” says the statement. “We also rely on the vigilance of our members to keep their information and accounts safe and secure. This includes being aware of potential scams, regularly reviewing accounts and, if there is suspicious activity, reporting it immediately so that we can help secure the account and address any fraudulent transactions”

Christian’s family says they have struggled to get answers to some of their questions – and feel staff should’ve seen red flags as the woman cashed out her investments to send the wire transfers abroad.

“Peg feels that if she was just asked ‘are you being coerced’ that she would’ve broken down and said this is happening to me,” says Huska.

The family wants the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments to investigate their situation. OBSI is an independent and impartial service that resolves disputes between banking services, investment firms and their customers.

A spokesperson for OBSI says it cannot comment on individual complaints where it might be involved in the case.

A general information bulletin on OBSI’s website reminds people financial services firms don’t automatically reimburse money when someone becomes a victim of fraud. It suggests it can happen though depending on how the loss or fraud occurred, such as the firm having reason to suspect a person might be exposed to fraud but did not act.

The site says customers may be held responsible in cases where they unknowingly sent funds to a fraudster or authorized a firm to transfer money from their account to someone else – among other common scenarios.

Christian and her family have also been in touch with their local MP to explore potential avenues for regulatory changes at the federal level.

And they say they’re grateful to the Office of the Seniors Advocate in B.C. for helping Christian arrange more affordable housing and income support.

A GoFund Me is also raising money on her behalf since her budget has been cut by 50 per cent.

“This shouldn’t happen to anybody at all,” says Christian.

Anyone who thinks they've been a victim of a scam should contact their local police department and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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