How My Bank Account Was Compromised (And Depleted)


Bank in Canada

On Mon­day after­noon, the phone rang. I picked up and heard two sec­onds of sta­tic, often a tell­tale sign of tele­mar­ket­ing. I’m not sure why I didn’t hang up the phone. I usu­ally do—we get a lot of tele­mar­ket­ing calls, and I have no patience for sales pitch at 2 p.m.

I braced myself for the “how are you today?” (another tell­tale sign of the begin­ning of a tele­mar­ket­ing script). But instead, a pre-recorded mes­sage started to play, say­ing that my bank account might have been com­pro­mised. I was invited to check my account activ­ity and call my bank if I noted any unau­tho­rized transactions.

I sud­denly remem­bered that Feng, who uses a dif­fer­ent bank, told me he had received a sim­i­lar mes­sage the pre­vi­ous day.

Since I was already online and not doing any­thing spe­cial, I logged into my bank account to make sure every­thing was okay.

It wasn’t. My check­ing account had been emptied.

I reviewed the trans­ac­tions, a very easy task con­sid­er­ing I don’t have much in my check­ing account and that I rarely use Interac. I had made a with­drawal down­town Ottawa a few days ear­lier, that was right. How­ever, the five sub­se­quent with­drawals made just a few hours ear­lier that day weren’t mine. They were all strange amounts: $204.51, $108.32… not the kind of amounts you can with­draw at the ATM. And I def­i­nitely hadn’t used my card that day.

I called Sco­tia­bank to sort this out, and was told to go to my branch in person.

Half an hour later, I showed up at the cus­tomer ser­vice counter. “I received a mes­sage from you say­ing my account had been com­pro­mised…” I started to say. “That’s fine, you can just change your PIN to be on the safe side.” “No, but my account was com­pro­mised,” I explained. “The lat­est trans­ac­tions on the account aren’t mine.”

This changed every­thing. After I swore that I was in pos­ses­sion of my debit card (yep, in my wal­let) and that the PIN wasn’t writ­ten on a post-it stuck on the card (this is appar­ently more com­mon than you’d think), I was given a brand new debit card. “The trans­ac­tions will be inves­ti­gated,” explained the employee, “but don’t worry, the money will be returned to you in a week or two.”

While this is a pain, I’m glad that the bank took me seri­ously and that get­ting the money back shouldn’t be a problem.

How­ever, it bugged me that the employee wouldn’t tell me what had hap­pened. I have no idea how my account was com­pro­mised, and I wish I knew. I barely use debit and I usu­ally mon­i­tor my account closely. For Sco­tia­bank to send recorded mes­sages to cus­tomers, the prob­lem must be wide­spread, right? Oth­er­wise, an actual employee would have called directly if there was some sus­pi­cious activ­ity on my account only. Funny too that Feng, who banks with CIBC, had received a sim­i­lar mes­sage the day before (no issue on his account, though). The bank told me the with­drawals made with my card had prob­a­bly been made at the counter, and that they’d check the secu­rity cam­eras. But they couldn’t dis­close more “for secu­rity reasons.”

Morale of the story? Some­times it pays off to lis­ten to pre-recorded mes­sages. And to check your bank account often. I’m not sure it would have been that easy to dis­pute the trans­ac­tions a week or two after they were made, if I hadn’t noticed right away.

Have your bank account ever been compromised?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I’m sur­prised they used a pre-recorded mes­sage because that’s how a lot of scams hap­pen. But sorry you had your account com­pro­mised, but yes, it is good that you’re get­ting your money back.

    I’ve had a few expe­ri­ences of shop­ping at places where they skimmed the debit cards and dis­cov­er­ing later that my bank blocked my card. Of course they don’t say who was doing the skim­ming, which is frustrating.

  2. I’m per­plexed for the oppo­site rea­son as your­self: my bank accounts (plural indi­cat­ing over the years) have never once been com­pro­mised. Per­haps not so per­plex­ing unless you take the fol­low­ing into account:

    - We’re talk­ing 27 years, since 1985 when I got my first debit card

    - I have been using the exact same pass­word that entire time (yes really), and

    - I use my debit card for prac­ti­cally *every­thing*… 4–5 times in one day is not an unusual occurence.

    And yes I do know I’ve been incred­i­bly lucky :)

    • This is good actually!

      I’ve been pretty lucky so far, and I guess con­sumers are bound to run into issues like these once in a while. It was solved promptly so no big deal really.

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