Someone drained our bank account...

I tried to use my debit card tonight to pay for some groceries, and I got a generic service error from the ATM. Thinking it was a a little odd I got my wife to check the account status online, and our chequing account was in the overdraft.

We always keep around around $2000 in there, with the rest of our savings in a higher interest account. My wife noticed that there were 4 ATM withdraws in the last 2 days, each day someone withdrawing $800 and $180. Apparently yesterday the bank flagged our account as suspicious and deactivated my debit card, but neglected to tell us about that little detail until we called. It was too late anyways as the crook sucked that account dry.

I just got off the phone with the bank emergency line, and all accounts and credit cards are frozen on my request until we figure out what the hell is going on (a little late…). Obviously someone duplicated my debit card and has my PIN, but my card has never been out of my sight. I know there are portable scanners out there and all it takes is one bad clerk.

Tomorrow I’ll talk to a fraud specialist and we can see what the odds are that we’ll get our money back. I’ll also get the process started of getting all of our funds moved to new accounts, as well as new cards. I only hope that the withdraws took place somewhere outside of town so it will be easier for the bank to determine that we couldn’t have withdrew the money ourselves.

$2000 is not going to bankrupt us, but it will make things lean for the next while. I only hope that this was random and that it wasn’t a targeted attack.

Things to be thankful for:

  • It wasn’t our savings
  • My wife’s last paycheque wasn’t deposited yet
  • A large payment just came out a few days ago.
  • We have a credit card from another bank we can use until things get sorted out.

I decided not to put this in the pit because I’m more upset than angry. Depending on how the bank treats us tomorrow I may change my mind.

Most banks have a policy similar to credit cards concerning fraudulent ATM withdrawals. That is, you’re only responsible for the first $50, provided you report the suspicious activity to the bank with a stated time period, usually 30 days. You should be Ok, I think. Good luck tomorrow,

Jeezopete, AC, if you find out what happened, let us know! I tend to think I’m “safe” because I keep my debit card in my hot little hands, but it sounds like that’s not enough!

Good luck, and best wishes! The only thing remotely like that I’ve ever had happened was when my credit card company mistakenly cashed a $200 check as a $2000 check. The credit union handled everything and apologized to me.

I am so sorry Anonymous Coward. Some people are just bastards. It makes me angry to hear about this kind of thing. How hard is it to get off ones ass and get a job to make money instead of stealing it from those who earned it.

Just one bad clerk can be responsible for thousands of counterfeit cards - just takes one swipe. As for the pin, anything from a person watching you enter it to a keystroke logger could have been used.

So far, you’ve done everything to take care of this account - but check your other accounts to be on the safe side.

When you get the new card, change the pin to something new - as we say in the business, your pin should not be information found in your wallet - date of birth, last four digits of social, address #, etc. Also, do not use the same pin for all accounts - makes it easier to use the wrong card accidently and gives a thief free use of all accounts versus just one.

Based on the amounts, they may have used an ATM at/near a casino - most ATMS are calibrated to give $500 maximum. File a police report and they can hopefully get security camera footage.

Security camera footage is useless. My boyfriend and his mates got mugged, forced thier pin numbers from them, and the muggers were caught on camera at the cash point. It couldn’t be used as evidence! Apperently there was a long queue at the the cash point and the timings of the camera/withdrawl weren’t good enough. What’s the point in having cameras?!
Yes, I’m still bitter about. The guys who did it were eventually caught when they beat up a girl in the street (which wouldn’t have happened if they could have used the camera evidence)

Thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts and suggestions…

I’m not counting on camera footage to save us. In Ontario we have privately owned and operated ATMs in small corner stores, bars, etc and I’m betting that the crooks used one of these as there are usually no cameras.

hardygrrl, should we file our own police report or will our bank take care of that for us? Are two reports better than one?

Just an anecdote here but something I’ve done in the past when presented with a new PIN that I was likely to forget before I had it committed to memory…

I’d take a random business card (My wallet seems to be a catch-all for them), scratch out the original telephone number and add a new number using the same prefixes with my PIN added in a certain re-arranged order as the last four digits. Certainly not foolproof but it saved my bacon a couple of times when I’d forgoten a new PIN. After the pin had been committed to memory I’d toss the card.

Good luck A.C.!

File your own - the bank may just recover the funds and not actively look for a suspect.* Being proactive is always a good idea. Honestly, it is rare that a suspect can be a) substaniated and b) successfully prosecuted - fraud ranks low on the law’s priority list unless the dollar amounts are high/it is tied to other crimes.

  • I do not speak for all banks or all possible situations. Every bank is different.

It happened to us just a few weeks ago and it wasn’t the pin and it wasn’t online and nobody actually took the card. It was a debit/ATM card with a visa logo and somebody used the account in local stores, ostensibly in person (one of the charges was to Block Buster, for example). A card like ours can be used as a debit card or a credit card transaction wise, meaning you can either use your pin or sign. Still I have no idea how it happened and I’m sure I never will. One of the things I’m hearing now is that dishonest wait people are jamming their hands onto the card to get the imprint, but I still don’t know how in person transactions are being made.

I will say that it was my husband’s card that was compromised and his pin could be more mysterious.

I don’t know if this is related or not, but it seems awfully close to our situation. I’m in Ottawa as well, and use Scotiabank.

The crooks used what is commonly known around here as a “sniffer”. It is a device that connects to the card reader of the ATM machine. When you insert your card, the sniffer scans the magnetic strip, and stores it in memory. Meanwhile, off to the side or above, a secretly hidden camera is set up to watch you enter your PIN

After awhile, the crook disconnects the sniffer, and makes new cards that they use to get into your account using your own PIN

The sniffer and camera are often disguised to look like a part of the machine, painted it the colors and what have you.

So, the good rule of thumb is never use a machile that the card reader seems “different” on. If a machine looks different than the one beside it, examine it, and if you suspect a device is installed, call the police.

Stupendous Man, I’ve heard about sniffers and folks watching you enter your PIN. I used to cover my hand when I was typing in my PIN number (I’m pretty paranoid), but I started feeling stupid when I did so.

Do these kinds of things happen at “reputable” places (e.g., Target, CompUSA) or are they more likely to be at the quickie ATMs in the corner of the local convenience store? Just curious…

Hmm, I posted before I read Anonymous Coward’s link.

I’m guessing Scotiabank is a major banking chain in the area, yes?


Archergal, Scotiabank is one of the chartered banks in Canada. There are about 10 national banks, and many local credit unions. The banking system there is not like it is here. Banks are not privately held businesses like they are in most places in the US.

Anonymous Coward

I’m in Ottawa as well and we had this happen to us last January. We were able to figure out where my s/o’s card was cloned and reported it. I will tell you it was a popular gas station at the corner of Baseline & Merivale.

The thieves attempted to deposit and empty envelope with the value of $4000 attached to it. They tried to take out $1000 4 times, but his card was set up for a max of $300 at that time. So they took out $300 at 11:55 pm and $300 at 12:03 am. The bank re-imbursed us all of it. The reason they caught it was the phony deposit of $4000, which threw up a red flag. We have direct deposit for our pay cheques and have NEVER deposited any where near that much.

Hope you get it all sorted out.

AC: "In Ontario we have privately owned and operated ATMs in small corner stores, bars, etc "

StupendousMan: The crooks used what is commonly known around here as a “sniffer”.

From what I understand from various news stories, these two things go hand in hand. Try not to use those small private ones.

So sorry to hear about this, AC. People who do this … ESPECIALLY so close to Christmas … are just the scum of the earth.

When they find who did this, PRESS CHARGES!!!


First, thanks again to all for the good vibes :slight_smile:

The bank is assuring us that we will get a full reimbursement of the missing funds within days. First we need to visit our branch, review the last few days and then sign an affidavit stating we did not withdraw the funds in question.

The bank manager we spoke with was kind and informative. She told us that debit card fraud is very common in Ottawa, and that the fraud policies we will be following are polished and customer friendly. She’s in the process now of getting an emergency overdraft increase on our account so any car/mortgage payments that come due don’t bounce. She also told us that our accounts aren’t compromised and a new ATM card is all that is needed.

I did file a private police report, but I doubt I’ll ever learn who cloned my card or what charges are filed. Actually, I wouldn’t be suprised if my private report is closed as the bank will be the party with the stolen money, not myself.

I hope a great big karmic train runs over the dirtbag that did this to my family and who knows how many others. Like SnoopyFan said, stealing money this close to Christmas could put a real hurt on families that are paycheque to paycheque.

I wonder about the actual logistics of using a sniffer, (not that we need to discuss the fine details here) because it sounds like someone would need access to the hardware of the ATM.