Ottawa family relieved after BMO reimburses $23K taken by fraudsters

The family of an Ottawa woman is relieved the Bank of Montreal (BMO) will refund her more than $26,000 after previously saying it couldn’t prove a number of fraudulent transactions on her account were made by a third party.

“It was a huge relief — a huge relief for all of us,” said Sharmeen Yousuf, the woman’s daughter.

“We’re very happy that BMO resolved the issue. But at the same time, I’m a little disappointed that it took this long and so much pressure for this to be done.”

Sayeda Nazma Yousuf, 66, had never set up online banking, preferring to instead rely on paper statements and in-person branch visits. 

So when $23,716.38 was transferred out of Yousuf’s account via e-transfers, bill payments and a prepaid CIBC Visa card last spring, Yousuf’s family knew something had gone wrong.

‘It’s kind of an amazing little feel-good David and Goliath story that they were able to take on BMO and get their money back.’​​​​​– Vanessa Iafolla, financial crimes expert 

The family flagged the activity to BMO, but the bank refused to reimburse the senior due to “inconsistent information” gathered during an investigation — despite admitting an employee had erred by granting both a PIN change and an online banking setup during the same call, with someone the family believes to be a scammer.

After going public about the situation, the family was notified on Aug. 27 that the financial institution had reversed its decision. In addition to a full reimbursement, the family says the bank has offered two years of a credit-monitoring service and $2,500 for the trouble.

“It’s kind of an amazing little feel-good David and Goliath story that they were able to take on BMO and get their money back,” said Vanessa Iafolla, a professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax who researches financial crime. 

It’s not every day financial institutions change their tune, said Iafolla. 

Wants to know why BMO altered stance

Iafolla said she hopes BMO and other banks take lessons away from what the Yousef family endured.

“[By] making sure that your employees are up on their policies and procedures,” she said. “That they follow verification processes correctly, that they are educated on their responsibilities with respect to client verification.” 

Still, Iafolla would like to know why the bank altered its stance and whether new policies have come into effect as a result of the Yousefs’ case.

“I’m quite certain this won’t be the last time that we hear about somebody being unwittingly defrauded and a bank being abused in the process or misused in the process,” she said.

While the family is pleased the bank has offered to reimburse the funds, Sharmeen Yousuf said they could have gone without the headache.

Mother ‘very relieved,’ says daughter

In a statement to CBC News, a BMO spokesperson confirmed it would reimburse the fraudulent transactions and that it had apologized to Nazma Yousuf.

“We reviewed this matter further and advised our customer that we will reimburse her for fraudulent transactions on her account,” the spokesperson said by email.

“There was no explanation given to us,” Sharmeen said. “They just apologized for handling the case the way they did.”

Now that the family has been reimbursed, Sharmeen Yousuf said she’d like to know if there have been any efforts to find the fraudster. She’ll also be keeping a closer eye on her mother’s transactions from now on.

After the family felt like it was being blamed for the loss of the money, which “hurt the most,” Sharmeen said, her mother is breathing a little easier after receiving the apology. 

“She was … very, very relieved,” Sharmeen said. “Very relieved.”