Look­ing for an­swers; as­sur­ances

Se­nior’s bank ac­count com­pro­mised

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROSALYN ROY Rosalyn.roy@gulfnews.ca Twit­ter: @tyger­lylly

PORT AUX BASQUES – Like most se­niors, Elsie McNeil lives on a fixed in­come that she care­fully bud­gets.

A cou­ple of months ago she no­ticed a dis­crep­ancy with her pen­sion pay­out and vis­ited her bank to de­ter­mine why it was lower than ex­pected, and had been for some time. The an­swer was shock­ing.

Through on­line bank­ing McNeil was pay­ing a stranger’s ca­ble bill, and had been do­ing so for the past 17 months. That meant a loss of over $1300; money she could ill af­ford to have taken.

“They done noth­ing,” said Elsie about the lack of help from the Port aux Basques branch of the Bank of Mon­treal (BMO). “I haven’t been able to sleep since, think­ing about how did they get into my bank ac­count? The bank says they’re not at fault.”

Af­ter the is­sue was dis­cov­ered, the BMO charged McNeil $20 to stop the pay­ments from com­ing out of her ac­count au­to­mat­i­cally ev­ery month. McNeil has a son in South Branch on her ac­count to help out, but says he doesn’t know any­thing about it ei­ther and was com­pletely taken aback when he re­ceived a call about what was go­ing on.

McNeil pays her bills di­rectly at the bank teller win­dow ev­ery month and not through on­line bank­ing. In a small town there are lim­ited op­tions, chang­ing all of her cheques and other ser­vices feels over­whelm­ing for McNeil. Mostly she seeks re­as­sur­ance from the BMO that her money is safe and this won’t hap­pen again, but that doesn’t seem to be forth­com­ing.

“I wasn’t look­ing for money. I need some as­sur­ances from the bank and they put me off,” said McNeil, who would visit daily to try to un­der­stand how and why this hap­pened, but feels the teller treated her rudely and with­out warn­ing left for va­ca­tion.

Des­per­ate and frus­trated she turned to her daugh­ter for help. Karen Dixon lives in On­tario where she serves as a mem­ber of the armed forces. She in­ter­vened on her mother’s be­half with the bank, who re­turned the $20 stop­page fee, but that still wasn’t the end of it. The BMO then charged Elsie an­other $6 and change in over­age fees.

“They sort of dropped the ball on her,” said Dixon, who man­aged to get the BMO to re­turn the $20 fee. But she too is unim­pressed with the treat­ment her mother re­ceived from the lo­cal branch. “They’re not ac­com­mo­dat­ing at all.”

Dixon told the Gulf News that the teller help­ing her mother ad­vised Dixon she had faxed the ca­ble com­pany on Tues­day, but when Dixon checked on Fri­day the ca­ble com­pany had not heard from the bank, and in fact had been call­ing for at least four days with­out get­ting some­one to an­swer or re­turn their calls. It was then Dixon dug in her heels.

“I’m not go­ing to let this hap­pen to my Mom,” said Dixon, who has heard two dif­fer­ent sto­ries from two dif­fer­ent branch em­ploy­ees. One told her the two ac­counts had sim­i­lar num­bers, and the other said they are noth­ing alike. “I per­son­ally think it was the bank’s fault.”

Even­tu­ally the ca­ble com­pany re­funded the pay­ments her mother had made on the sec­ond ac­count, and Dixon does not hold them ac­count­able, say­ing that they’ve been very un­der­stand­ing, co­op­er­a­tive and help­ful.

Elsie did ap­proach the lo­cal branch of the RCMP and it’s Dixon’s un­der­stand­ing that they will pro­vide an up­date once they fin­ish check­ing into the mat­ter.

On­line bank­ing

For some se­niors tech­nol­ogy such as on­line bank­ing can be con­fus­ing.

Sgt. Terry Alexan­der of the Port aux Basques de­tach­ment ad­vises them to con­tact the de­part­ment if se­niors need tips or in­for­ma­tion on how to pro­tect their fi­nances on­line.

“For the most part, if they’re go­ing to be do­ing on­line bank­ing, have some­one that can check things over for them if they’re not com­fort­able do­ing it them­selves,” he said.

Elsie has yet to re­ceive any kind of ex­pla­na­tion or apol­ogy from the bank.

“I got my money back but I don’t feel safe there no more,” said Elsie.

Nei­ther the lo­cal branch or the me­dia re­la­tions de­part­ment for BMO com­mented or re­sponded to ques­tions re­lated to bank­ing se­cu­rity mea­sures prior to the Gulf News print dead­line on Thurs­day, July 13.

ROSALYN ROY / THE GULF NEWS

Elsie McNeil says she no longer trusts her bank af­ter she dis­cov­ered funds from her ac­count were be­ing au­to­mat­i­cally with­drawn to pay a stranger’s bill.

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