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Ontario senior loses $16,500 to bank investigator scam

An Ontario senior said she lost thousands of dollars earlier this year in a scam where someone pretended to be an employee of her bank.

"My mom believed it was CIBC calling, and she was helping them with an investigation," Kendra Hickton, who has been helping her mother Ellen deal with the bank fraud case, told CTV News Toronto.

The Oakville senior said she received a call one morning in January of this year from someone claiming to be with her bank investigating a scammer.

"She said, 'I'm calling from CIBC to let you know your account has been compromised,' and as soon as she said that, I went into a panic mode. My brain froze. I was just like terrified," Ellen Hickton said.

Ellen Hickton said she wanted to help and followed her instructions on the phone, which included withdrawing money from her bank account, buying thousands of dollars in gift cards, and putting thousands more into Bitcoin.

"She said we will put money into your account. It's not your money coming out," said Ellen Hickton.

Ultimately, she sent the scammers $16,542 of her own money in gift cards and Bitcoin.

"Nobody warned me at the bank when I was taking out this money," said Ellen Hickton.

Her daughter Kendra said the incident was "very disheartening" and scary.

"She is a senior, and she doesn't have a ton of money, and this could have life-changing implications for her."

A spokesperson for CIBC told CTV News Toronto fraudsters impersonating trusted organizations are on the rise and can affect anyone.

"We're working with our client to review this matter, but we will never ask a client to assist in a fraud investigation or request money be sent to us via cryptocurrencies, gift cards, or electronic money transfers," the statement reads.

"These scams often involve victims being coached to misinform their bank when asked about the purpose of the transaction. Therefore, it's important to always be forthright when speaking with your bank about a withdrawal, payment or transfer, as once you authorize a transaction, it will be processed. If you're suspicious, end the call and contact your bank using the official phone number found on the back of your card or the website."

Associate professor with the University of Toronto and Canada Research Chair in Older Adult Mistreatment Prevention, David Burnes, told CTV News Toronto criminals target older Canadians with this type of scam as they are more trusting and often want to help.

"Scammers specifically tailor frauds and scams to different groups of people, including scams towards older adults" Burnes said. "Unfortunately, in most cases, it's very difficult to get their money back."

To avoid being scammed, don't be pressured into quick decisions, and if you are concerned about a strange call, contact your financial institution directly.

Ellen Hickton said she is shocked her money may be gone for good.

"This is my bank. I said to them you're supposed to be looking out for me and protecting me," she said.

It's important to talk with family and friends to ensure they know the signs of a scam call, text or email.

A bank will never ask you to transfer funds for security reasons, and you should also never give remote access to your computer to an unknown caller. Top Stories

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