British Columbia

TD bank considers clients 'guilty until proven innocent,' says victim of debit card theft

Vancouver teacher Eric Proulx has some advice he says you can take to the bank: if you run afoul of your financial institution, raise a stink. 

Toronto Dominion bank refused to refund $4,300 stolen from Vancouver man's account, until the CBC got involved

This frame from lobby surveillance video shows a thief starting to break into mailboxes at Eric Proulx's Mount Pleasant apartment building. (Supplied by Eric Proulx)

Update — Friday, April 24, 2020: Late Friday, TD Bank sent CBC News a new statement, saying a temporary PIN is sent to customers in a separate envelope on a different day. The bank says it's sorry Eric Proulx's information was stolen and they regret the inconvenience. TD says it's pleased the matter has been resolved through its "escalation process."


Vancouver teacher Eric Proulx has some advice he says you can take to the bank: if you run afoul of your financial institution, raise a stink. 

You might just get justice— and your money back.

Around 8:30 a.m. on April 10, Proulx says someone brazenly broke into mailboxes in his Mount Pleasant apartment lobby and stole a new Toronto Dominion bank debit card in his letter box.

The thief then withdrew $4,300 from Proulx's bank account.

"He had a pretty good day it seems," said Proulx, 28. "He was pretty lucky to not just get pizza flyers."

By the time Proulx learned of the theft a few hours later and checked his bank account, the money in the linked account was gone— drained by the thief, who had somehow activated the card.

Proulx, who has been teaching remotely during the COVID-19 crisis— and his partner, who's laid off during the pandemic— were devastated. 

They'd saved the $4,300 for the first two mortgage payments on their new apartment and were just in the process of moving in.

But more bad news was coming.

Eric Proulx, 28, says TD Bank accused him of staging his own debit card theft from the bank of mailboxes in his apartment building. (Supplied by Eric Proulx)

Thief caught on video, but TD blames victim

Proulx says TD didn't believe his story— even though he had reported the theft to Vancouver police— and had provided the bank with what he thought was a smoking gun: lobby surveillance video that caught the thief in action, ripping open scores of mailboxes with a crowbar.

Not enough, said TD. And then, he says, his bank blamed him for the theft.

"The TD employee said that his guess was that I had either given my PIN to someone or that ... he's heard also in the past that people have arranged to either disguise themselves and break into their own mail or have an accomplice do so," said Proulx.

"That's the kind of time where you try to stay polite on the phone."

TD Bank repays money

The case sat unresolved for almost two weeks. Proulx filed an appeal.

But within 20 hours of CBC News getting involved, TD reversed its position.

TD Bank took 13 days but eventually did refund Proulx. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Asked for an explanation, bank spokesperson Ryan-Sang Lee said he couldn't comment on the specifics of this case, citing customer privacy. He did note Proulx had filed an appeal and "I understand the matter has been resolved."

Proulx says he's "baffled" the bank didn't believe him, especially given how the money was drained from his account— first, an initial withdrawal of $100, then a series of $400 transactions, which turned into a slew of $800 cash-outs.

Purchase records show the thief finally treated himself to a hamburger snack.

"The guy rewarded himself with $30 of A&W," he said.

'Easy to get into someone's account'

Proulx says he tried to point out something else to TD investigators: banks often make it easy for cards to be activated.

When a new card is sent in the mail, he says it often comes with a sticker bearing a temporary PIN or activation code, so the client can call the bank to activate it.

TD bank did not respond to questions from the CBC asking if that had happened in this case.

Proulx says he finally received a call from the bank, confirming it did.

"I think that if banks are willing to make it that easy to get into someone's account, they should also be willing to compensate the victims of that system," said Proulx.

This close-up from the surveillance tape shows the thief in the midst of ransacking mailboxes around 8:30am April 10. (Supplied by Eric Proulx)

'Guilty until proven innocent'

Proulx thinks there's something fundamentally wrong with the way he was treated by his bank.

"They start from the belief that you are guilty until proven innocent and that you need to prove to them that it wasn't you that stole your own card and stole your money," said Proulx. "I feel like they [treated] my claim as if I am a fraudster."

"I'm happy they've done the right thing, but I wish it hadn't taken getting the CBC involved to have them do the right thing," said Proulx.

He has some advice for anyone else who might have their bank cards stolen and fall victim to identity theft.

"It seems like they try to find a reason to not give your money to you, but if you raise a stink, you might get it back."

CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

 

About the Author

Eric Rankin

Investigative journalist

Eric Rankin is an award-winning CBC reporter. His honours include the 2018 Canadian Screen Award for Best Local Reportage, the 2017 and 2015 RTDNA awards for Best In-depth/Investigative Reporting, and the 2009 Jack Webster award for Best News Reporting.

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