Fraudsters are targeting Canadians with a scam that involves impersonating a bank official or law enforcement officer and convincing the victim they are helping with a bank investigation.
This particular scam is often known as the "Bank Investigator Scam," and it is one of a number of scams that are designed to take advantage of the good nature of Canadians.
While the details of the bank investigator scam can take many forms, typically the end goal of the fraudster is to get the victim to wire money or purchase gift cards and send the funds to the fraudster.
One particularly deceptive variation of this scam involves fraudsters convincing victims that they are assisting law enforcement in a fraud investigation.
How it works:
Impersonation of Bank Employee or Law Enforcement
Typically, the scam takes place when the victim receives a phone call from a fraudster posing as an employee of the fraud department at a bank. When impersonating a bank employee, the fraudster's goal is often to convince the victim to disclose their banking information and then use that information to remotely gain access to the victim's bank accounts.
The fraudster provides their name and a phony employee number and tells the victim either that their accounts have been compromised or that the bank is investigating a series of fraud cases that have been committed by staff at the individual’s branch – sometimes even providing actual names of staff members at a branch.
The fraudster goes on to ask the victim to assist with a joint law enforcement investigation into the fictitious fraud cases, and then tells the victim that it is vital this information is kept confidential from branch staff and family or friends. In some cases, to help encourage participation, the fraudster promises some form of compensation for the victim.
Fake Fund Deposits
Sometimes the fraudster will pretend they deposited money into the victim's account – but it's often through fraudulent cheques, or by using cash advances from the victim's own credits cards or lines of credit without the victim being aware – and then ask the victim to wire the money back to the fraudster, claiming it will be inspected and used as evidence as part of their investigation. In some cases, the fraudster will also instruct the victim to purchase gift cards using the money and then ask the victim to share the card numbers with the fraudster once the cards are activated.
Unfortunately, once money is sent or spent on gift cards, you may not be able to get it back. Be aware that certain types of funds transfers, like wire transfers or Interac e-Transfer® transactions, may not be able to be cancelled or retrieved. Because gift cards are used like cash, once they are purchased, it is unlikely that you will be able to get your money back.
It's important to know that your financial institution would NEVER ask you to withdraw money or perform any financial transaction to help in a fraud or internal investigation of any kind. Your financial institution will also never ask you for your banking credentials such as your online banking password or the one-time security code that is sent to your mobile device or email address.
As is the case with many types of fraud, if an offer sounds suspicious or too good to be true, it probably is. What's more, your financial institution and/or a law enforcement organization like the RCMP will not ask average Canadians to help with fraud investigations, nor would they ever offer financial compensation.
Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to the bank investigator scam:
Be wary: Don't trust any unsolicited calls you receive, especially if they're asking for personal information, and verify the source of anyone who claims to be calling from your bank. If you receive a call from someone who says they're from your bank, take down their name and hang up. Using a different phone line, call the bank using an established and verified number (such as the phone number on the back of your debit card).
Don't assume: Though your call display might say the call is coming from your bank, don’t assume the caller is legitimate. Scammers often use call spoofing technology (call displays may show the name of a company or financial institution) to make you believe their request is authentic.
Verify the source of funds: In order to make you believe that they've deposited money into your account, fraudsters will actually transfer your own funds from another one of your accounts or credit products (e.g. Credit Card, HELOC, etc.) into your primary bank account. It's important to always validate what you are told by reviewing all of your accounts for any transactions that you didn't do yourself.
Be wary: In an effort to get your money with as little intervention as possible, fraudsters will instruct the victim not to tell branch staff why they are withdrawing money and, in many cases, will provide them with a cover story such as sending money to a family member overseas. If you find yourself in this situation, it is a good idea that you advise branch staff what you are doing and why because they can be an important line of defense in helping to protect you and your money.
Protect your personal information: To verify your identity, your bank will ask basic questions to ensure they are speaking to the correct person. However, they will never ask you to disclose your passwords or your PIN number on the phone. If you feel uncomfortable with the call or feel like you are being asked questions that feel too personal, hang up.
Don't provide access to your computer: Under no circumstances would your bank ask you for remote access to your device. If you receive a call from someone who says they are from your bank and they need you to download software onto your computer, hang up the phone and contact your bank immediately – using a phone number you know is legitimate (like on the back of your debit or credit card).
TD has many safety and security measures that help protect our customers from potential fraudulent activity and we encourage our customers to take some time to get educated about common scams and learn ways they can avoid them. Here are some more ways you can protect yourself:
Understand: your responsibilities as an account or card holder. This information is provided by your bank and outlines your commitments.
Get educated: The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre can help you learn more about common fraud scams so you can avoid them.
Stay informed: If you are a TD customer, signing up for services like TD Fraud Alerts, will mean getting texts that notify you if TD detects suspicious activity made on accounts that are linked to the service.
If you've been the victim of a scam:
Report it: If you or a family member has fallen victim to a scam, report it to your local police, as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Talk about it: If you've fallen victim to a scam, share your story. The more people who know about these scams, the harder it may be for fraudsters to take advantage.