By Glenn Hicks
A Prince Albert woman is warning others about the potential perils of cyber fraud after losing big money in an Interac e-transfer.
Dr. Sylvia Veith has vowed never to use the popular payment method again for anything other than very small amounts after what she called a “shocking experience” last year. Her biggest gripe is that customers are not guaranteed protection if and when an e-transfer gets into the wrong hands.
She told paNOW she e-transferred $7,000 from her RBC account to a reputable tour company in Calgary. The money was for a deposit on a European holiday that she and her family took this summer.
“The next morning [after I sent the e-transfer] the manager at the company clicked on it and they discovered it had already been received by someone else,” Veith said. “We went to RBC straight away and they found the money did go to the company’s email but they don’t know who received it.”
Veith said they went to the RCMP who told her the chances of finding that money “is nothing.” She then went back to the RBC branch and said she was told “sorry we don’t insure e-transfers.”
“We went to a lawyer and he said it would be almost impossible to say who’s to blame and recommended we try to ‘work it out’ with the tour company.
In the end Veith said she and the company agreed to share the loss at $3,500 each and they too were very upset by the situation telling all their clients to stop using e-transfers. Veith said the manager of the tour company even took their computer into an expert who couldn’t find any signs of a hack. It remains unclear how the fraud occurred although Veith speculates it may have been because of a flimsy or potentially predictable password used by the tour company.
Apart from losing the money Veith’s big concern is that the bank told her she was not protected if something went awry with an e-transfer.
“You know, using VISA you have that assurance, but you would never expect there to be no insurance or any back-up for when you e-transfer funds,” she said.
RBC wouldn’t comment on the specific case but told paNOW in an email, that reads in part: “We encourage consumers to be vigilant while banking online. Much of this speaks to protecting personal information and engaging in general fraud awareness.”
Their statement went on to say: “We understand the frustration of uncertainties that may be encountered at the other end of an online transaction,” and recommended measures such as “verifying with the intended recipient via a separate communication channel.”
paNOW contacted Interac for comment. In an email the company said in part, that “while Interac is one of the most secure money transfer services globally, it should be considered as an alternative to cash or cheque, and a transaction cannot be reversed once the funds have been deposited. “ Interac added that “any decision to recover funds on behalf of the sender or receiver is made by their financial institution based on their knowledge of the customer.”
Dr Veith chose to share her story with paNOW this week because she and her family have now returned from the European trip and can say that the tour offered by the Calgary company was “awesome and lived up to what they promised.” But she won’t be putting her trust in e-transfers in future.
“I won’t transfer more than $100 in future because I know it can be lost and I’d recommend to anyone to use a very individualized password.’