TRINIDAD: ATM thieves stole man's $63,000 life savings

(Trinidad Express) – A Tabaquite couple is warning the public of an ongoing debit card fraud that appears to be perpetrated against Scotia Bank customers.

“Last Wednesday my husband went online to see if his salary had reached his account only to discover that his entire savings of $63,000 was missing,” said Sharen Badal-Ahyew.

“We reported it to our home branch at Princes Town, and an audit of his account showed that the money was withdrawn via ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) and other businesses during a six-day period from November 3-8.”

Badal-Ahyew said the bank gave them a printout, advised them to make a report to the Fraud Squad and to bring back a receipt of the report but refuses to give any indication if their money will be returned to them.

“All we have been told is that our savings was not insured to cover that type of crime, which we found to be unacceptable. As a result of that, we have had to highlight our plight via social media and are currently seeking legal advice.

Badal-Ahyew : “We posted what happened to us on Facebook and have gotten feedback from five other Scotia customers who said they also lost considerable sums of money in the same fashion”.

“We are already victims so why can’t we prevent other people from becoming victims by making them aware of what is going on.”

She said the printout on her husband’s account shows that the missing funds were accessed at a couple of NP Quik Shoppes, a Chaguanas casino and an RBC Royal Bank’s ATM at Gulf City Mall, La Romaine.

“One of the other victims we interacted with indicated that her money was spent in the western end of the country.

Badal-Ahyew said based on their experience and that of the other victims, it appears that the perpetrators are targeting casinos and ATMs to get access to the cash.

“We want Scotia to tell us something definitive because my husband was saving that money towards the purchase of a vehicle and we also have a mortgage to pay,” Badal-Ahyew said.

An attempt to reach Scotia’s head of customer experience Richard Estrado was unsuccessful as he was said to be out of office for the day.

Meanwhile, Express reached out to RBC Royal Bank, Republic Bank and First Citizen Bank to ascertain if they had similar report from customers.

Darryl White, Managing Director, RBC Caribbean Banking, Trinidad and Tobago, said: “Fraudulent activity targeting cards and payment systems, through skimming and phishing, is an ongoing aspect of business today. It’s the reason security is critical to us and will always be a top priority. We invest in and employ industry best practices to protect our systems so our clients can have confidence in their financial transactions, whether they choose to bank online, through mobile, at an ATM or in the branch.

“The reality is that fraud and cyber-crime have become increasingly problematic issues, not only for the financial services sector, but for other industries in the Caribbean and around the world. Attacks may be attempted through every channel on a frequent basis. To mitigate this, we are diligent at maintaining the highest possible privacy and security standards and focus on keeping our investment in this area, leveraging our team of experts to prevent, detect and investigate fraud and cyber incidents.”

And Director, Strategic and Corporate Communication, Caribbean Banking at RBC, Jacqueline Taggart unofficially, she’s not aware of any of their customers facing a similar predicament.

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