Impostor used fake ID to steal money from Quebec woman's line of credit
Fraudster turned away by Scotiabank branch when signature didn't match, but another branch gave her $2,500
A Longueuil, Que., woman is questioning Scotiabank's security measures after an impostor stole $2,500 from her line of credit.
Newsha Motazedi said she noticed a problem with her debit card when she couldn't log into her online account to pay bills.
Her bank told her that was because she'd reported her debit card lost.
"I was shocked," said Motazedi, who had her debit card in her pocket. "I hadn't informed anyone about a lost debit card."
The bank issued her a new debit card, but when she checked her accounts she saw right away that someone had withdrawn money from her line of credit.
The bank had legitimately activated the line of credit a week earlier. Motazedi had planned to draw on it for expenses.
"I didn't even have a chance to use it," she said.
Fraudster successful on 2nd attempt
When the bank looked at her account profile, it found that someone posing as Motazedi had reported the debit card lost on Aug. 16.
The impostor then tried to withdraw money from Motazedi's line of credit.
The request was refused when her signature didn't match the one the bank had on file.
After the attempted withdrawal, the bank added a security alert to Motazedi's accounts.
But the fraudster wasn't done.
Later that same day, the impostor again tried to withdraw money at a different Scotiabank branch in Montreal's west end.
This time, despite the security alert, the bank handed the impostor $2,500.
"I was shocked, and I was afraid because I was imagining what else that person can do with my identity, with my money," said Motazedi.
She thinks the bank should have contacted her immediately after the fraudster's first foiled attempt to get money from her account.
"I should be aware of what has happened," as she could have reacted quickly, she said.
When she checked her credit reports at both Equifax and Transunion, they showed the fraudster had also tried to open a credit card in her name at a different bank.
Fraudster had ID in her name
As soon as Motazedi found out about the theft, she reported it to the police.
She then went to the Scotiabank branch that had loaned the impostor money from her line of credit.
A bank employee reviewed the security video and told Motazedi the fraudster had showed one piece of identification in her name.
But when she met with the branch's manager the next day, he told her the woman had presented two pieces of identification — a driver's licence and what was possibly a health-care card.
The impostor also answered a security question.
"These things made me very frightened," said Motazedi, who has no idea how the impostor stole her identity or knew about her line of credit.
The bank would not allow Motazedi to screen the security video.
On Oct. 8, nearly a month-and-a-half after the theft, Motazedi's line of credit still registered the fraudulent loan in her name.
The bank was also charging her interest.
Motazedi doesn't think she received the customer service she deserves.
"They didn't care that much about what has happened," said Motazedi, who tried to get updates from both the individual branch and Scotiabank's complaints department.
"I personally think I need more attention."
Fraudster found way around security measures
John Lawford, the executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa, agrees.
"I think they could have treated her a hell of a lot nicer," said Lawford, who said the bank should have offered Motazedi an interest-free loan or a new line of credit while she waited for the bank's investigation to be completed.
He also thinks the bank should have stopped charging her interest on the fraudulent loan.
"It looks bad," said Lawford.
Motazedi has heard nothing from police, and Lawford says without a police investigation it's difficult to know exactly where mistakes were made.
"Was the bank teller at the second location just not trained properly to see the flag and go, 'Oops, excuse me, can I have a little bit more information here?'" asked Lawford.
"Or is the bank system not updating in real time?"
Lawford said it's not clear how prevalent this kind of fraud is.
But he said the Canadian government may need to consider beefing up consumer protection.
In response to last year's Equifax hack, which exposed the private information of more than 145 million Americans, the U.S. passed a new federal law allowing consumers to freeze their credit for free, said Lawford.
A freeze restricts who can access a consumer's credit file, he said, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in someone's name.
"That would probably be a good change for Canada as well," he said.
Scotiabank reimburses fraudulent loan
CBC contacted Scotiabank, but it refused to answer questions about how the fraud happened or what security measures it has in place.
"At Scotiabank, we take the concerns of our customers very seriously and review any instance where our customers feel we have not met their expectations," the bank's director of corporate communications, Annie Cuerrier, said in a statement.
"In these instances, we endeavour to work directly with our customers."
Less than 48 hours after CBC emailed Scotiabank about Motazedi's case, the bank reimbursed the fraudulent loan. Motazedi was also contacted by a customer service manager.
Although she is relieved the bank reimbursed the money, she said she's angry it only acted after CBC got involved with her case.
Motazedi said she no longer trusts the bank's services or security measures, and she plans to close her accounts and move to a different financial institution.
Tips to avoid identity theft
To avoid identity theft, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre referred CBC to Consumer Protection Ontario, which has a list of tips on its website.
Suggestions include regularly reviewing your bank statements and reporting any unusual activity as quickly as possible.
Consumers should also make sure their online passwords are strong.
With files from Anna Sosnowski