Home News This Deer Lake woman’s savings are gone, leaving her with unanswered questions

This Deer Lake woman’s savings are gone, leaving her with unanswered questions

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Bernita Serek believes her savings account has been emptied by fraudsters. (James Grodich/CBC)

A woman in western Newfoundland believes most of her savings have been stolen by internet thieves, after money began disappearing from her account earlier this year.

Brenta Sirik checked his account balance on a mobile banking app on Friday in mid-August.

She says she was baffled to see her money disappear in such large quantities.

“You’ve seen all these transactions, $5,000 here, $4,000 something here, it’s going to different places,” she said.

I waited until my local Bank of Montreal branch opened the following Monday and went in person to tell the staff what had happened. Sirik says the cashier saw another large sum of money being transferred in real time as Sirik stood helplessly at the counter as she lost another $5,000.

“I said stop, tag, do whatever you want, just stop it,” Serik said.

In total, she says she lost about $20,000 in four global money transfers, all in just four days.

She lives alone at Deer Lake, in a house that needs improvements. You receive a modest income from the Canada Pension Plan and Widow’s Allowance. She says she also lives with short-term memory loss after suffering a stroke in 2002.

Serik had most of the missing money earmarked for some repairs on the house, including insulating his basement after the recent floods. Now, with no sign of her money being returned, she has no way to pay for the work her home needs.

She said, “If the house falls, the house falls.”

Sirik says he has no idea where the money went or who sent it, but says it was transferred in euros and sent to two accounts with full names attached.

She says she’s complained to the Bank of Montreal and says they’ve launched an investigation, but she doesn’t think she’ll get her money back – though Serek thinks she should be compensated.

A BMO spokesperson said the bank has reviewed the matter and has asked Serrick to pass on any new information. But they also stress that customers should protect their credentials and closely monitor their bank accounts.

Sarah Bradley is the Chief Executive Officer of the Banking and Investment Ombudsman. (Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments)

Sarah Bradley is CEO of Ombudsman for Banking and Investments, a firm that resolves disputes between banks and their clients as an alternative to litigation.

For the bank to be liable to compensate Siric, Bradley said, it must prove that the bank was at fault.

“Consumers often don’t realize they’ve given access to their account to a fraudster,” Bradley said.

Serik remembers being asked to change his password to access his mobile banking a few weeks before the money went missing, and wonders if this happened when his account was hacked.

If it really turns out that Cerik did something about the security breach, even by mistake, the bank wouldn’t have to give him his $20,000 back.

“The consumer is a victim of crime, but it is not the responsibility of the bank to pay the money that was stolen from them,” Bradley said.

Sirik notified the RCMP shortly after this happened, and Cpl. Jolene Garland said police are investigating the missing money.

Garland said fraudulent transactions are often complex to investigate and can involve the work of multiple units in several jurisdictions. Thieves often transfer money through multiple accounts under multiple names, making it difficult to trace.

Meanwhile, Sirik has no hope of getting his money back.

She said: “It’s not good to live with that, knowing that your money is gone and that’s it.”

Learn more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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