Debit card dangers: A Cloverdale couple says their bank failed to protect them
VANCOUVER -- Who’s monitoring your bank accounts to prevent fraud? If you ask a Cloverdale couple, it’s not the banks. Thousands of dollars disappeared from their accounts and they’re being held liable for some of the loss because their debit card’s personal identification number, or PIN, was used.
It’s your responsibility to guard and to protect your PIN but just because a PIN is used doesn’t mean you’re automatically liable. A bank has responsibility to examine all factors involving fraud but David and Amelia Petrunia say one of their banks should have also blocked suspicious activity.
“They bled this thing dry. It was incredible how fast they did what they did," said David.
Amelia's credit and debit cards were stolen after she left them in her wallet in the back seat of her van. But the thieves were clever, taking just the cards and leaving the wallet in place.
“And then they zipped it all up, (and) put it back where it was so I didn't even know it was missing," she said.
It happened on a Friday and the thieves went wild. There were multiple fraudulent transactions involving three different financial institutions with a total loss of about $28,000.
Normally, you’d be entitled to compensation involving debit card fraud if you met the bank’s requirements and did everything you could to protect your accounts and your PIN.
"Consumers should not be held liable automatically if their PIN or means of authentication has been used to do this or the unauthorized transactions," said Phiippe Pellerin of the Consumer Financial Agency of Canada.
But you have a responsibility to make sure your PIN is hard to guess; if you have to write the number down, you need to keep it safe and to keep the numbers separate from your card. And you’re never supposed to share it with anyone.
Unfortunately, three years ago Amelia had shared her PIN with a caregiver for their daughter, who has special needs. She says she was honest about that when reporting the fraud to the bank.
The withdrawals and purchases occurred in several areas, and RCMP in Burnaby, Coquitlam and Surrey have been investigating. Officers obtained two suspect photos and are looking for the public’s help identifying them.
After investigating, two of the financial institutions forgave the losses but RBC is still holding the couple liable for $12,000.
“They treated me like I was honestly the criminal from the very beginning," said Amelia.
Since the PIN was used, RBC is holding them responsible but David said he had a different PIN on his business account and didn’t share it. It also had numerous fraudulent transactions.
Apparently those caught RBC’s attention. He got a call from their fraud department the morning after the cards were stolen.
“A total of nine times I tried to call them at the number they gave me," he said.
He said he couldn’t get through until it was too late.
“I assumed that if anything would go wrong with that that it would be similar to a credit card where they would shut it down right away.”
The couple wonders about RBC’s responsibility in monitoring their accounts to block unusual transactions.
“400, 400, 400, 400 dollars at a time,” he said, many in the middle of the night.
“Everything about them were abnormal transactions," Amelia added.
RBC told CTV News that they have fraud systems in place but wouldn’t tell us why the transactions weren’t blocked, saying they review fraud and unauthorized transactions on a daily basis. Even though the bank is holding the couple responsible, it says it’s not accusing them of the fraud.
AJ Goodman, Director of RBC External Communications, Personal & Commercial Banking, said in emails to CTV News:
“We understand that any time a client is impacted by unauthorized or fraudulent transactions it can be difficult for them. We review potential fraud and unauthorized transactions on a case-by-case basis, considering all relevant facts before making a decision on the matter. Regarding fraud prevention, we employ a diverse range of technologies, procedures and measures into our fraud detection systems to ensure the safety, confidentiality and integrity of our clients’ information and transactions.
In our Client Agreement, clients are given guidance on how to protect and safeguard their PINs. This includes not sharing their PIN with others, and making their PIN unique and unrelated to personal information so it cannot be easily guessed. We offer a number of tips and resources about how clients can transact safely and securely on our website.
But I also want to make clear that we have not accused, nor are we accusing, the couple of trying to defraud the bank or engage in similar misconduct.”
“I don't feel any protection any more with them," said David.
"It can be stressful, it can be difficult for people to go through and that's why there're consumer protection measures in place," explained Pellerin.
The Consumer Financial Agency of Canada says it’s up to the banks to determine how they monitor customer’s accounts for fraud.
However, the agency recommends that if you’re not satisfied with a bank’s investigation, to escalate it to the bank’s ombudsman. If, after that, you still believe you’re not being treated fairly, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Agency of Canada.
“It also allows us to identify if there’s a need to investigate further with financial institutions that we oversee,” added Pellerin.
“People need to be aware that your debit cards are not protected the way we think your credit cards are," David said.
The couple said they’ve been customers of RBC for 14 years and also have all investments with the bank. They say they are now going to take their business elsewhere.