Family slams ‘unconscionable’ actions of TD Bank after 95-year-old woman withdraws $10K in scam

The family of a 95-year-old Ontario woman tricked into withdrawing $10,000 in the middle of a major snowstorm said it’s “absolutely unconscionable” that bank employees allowed her to take out the money without contacting her power of attorney.

On a late January day, Elise received approximately seven phone calls to her Burlington, Ont., home.

Her only grandson, Ben, had been arrested for a drug offence and needed $10,000 to cover bail, the caller explained to Elise, whom CTV News Toronto has agreed to refer to by pseudonym at the request of her family.

A winter storm that saw some parts of southern Ontario get up to 20 cm of snow had just begun to hit Burlington, but the 95-year-old wanted to help her grandson, her family told CTV News Toronto, and so she did what they instructed her.

“It’s disgraceful,” Bernie Mueller, Elise’s son, told CTV News Toronto.

Mueller said he had previously explained to his mother the nature of “grandparent scams,” yet, in the heat of the moment, the senior was overcome with emotion, he said, and ultimately was able to be victimized.

“Folks may talk to elderly people in their family about the scam, but the skill level of these criminals is such that it doesn’t even matter,” Mueller said. “They just know what to say, how to say it, and what to do to make sure that the individual they’re preying upon operates strictly on the emotion of wanting to help a family member in trouble.”

THE SCAM

The incident happened on Jan. 25, starting with a barrage of calls made to Elise’s home, informing her of her grandson’s fraudulent detention.

They requested $10,000 from her in exchange for the release of her grandson on bail.

“They were able to override her common sense and understanding, and just get her caught up in emotion,” Mueller said.

After about an hour of conversation, Mueller said the scammers called a taxi for Elise, arranging for her to be picked up at her residence and driven to her bank – a TD branch located on Brant St. in Burlington.

Mueller said he remains unsure whether the cab his mother entered was from a registered taxi company, or belonged to those responsible.

“You have to appreciate that my mother, she’s 95, uses a walker and has congestive heart failure, so in her mind, it was a taxi,” he said.

Once at the branch, at about 5:30 p.m., Mueller said Elise entered the bank and asked the teller for the money, but was initially met with suspicion – so much so that the teller accompanied her to the parking lot to see who she was with.

Despite initial doubts, TD withdrew the $10,000 from Elise’s account and gave it to her, before Elise then handed it over in the hopes of assisting her loved one.

Elise was then driven home, uninjured but robbed of a significant amount of money.

Mueller, who acts as Elise’s power of attorney and whose name is on her bank account, said the bank did not contact him during the transaction.

“I don’t even have the words to describe the disappointment,” he said.

Once Mueller found out his mother had been a victim of theft, he says he immediately reported it to Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS).

When reached for comment, HRPS confirmed to CTV News Toronto the incident had been reported to them but said they could not provide further details due to the ongoing investigation.

After realizing she had been scammed, Elise became very upset, Mueller said.

“I’ve been speaking to her and trying to reiterate and explain that it’s not her fault,” he said. “She feels very guilty – after all the emotion is out of it, common sense begins to kick in.”

“She’s very upset that she fell for any of this in the heat of the moment,” he said.

But the victimization of his mother and the subsequent criminal investigation have not marked the end of Mueller’s troubles – he claims TD has been less than helpful in the aftermath of the crime.

‘THE TRAIL HAS GOTTEN SO COLD’

According to Mueller, the bank has failed to communicate in a timely fashion with his family and have not properly cooperated with the investigation.

“The police don’t even have the most basic information of what happened and are being prevented from speaking to bank employees,” he said. “They are clearly motivated by protecting themselves and there is obviously a problem with how this was done.”

When reached for comment, TD it’s “sorry to hear about [Elise]’s circumstance and understand how distressing this must be.”

“We can confirm our internal team has been engaged and an information file has been opened. TD will provide any required details and information should an investigation be opened,” they said in an emailed statement.

The bank did not respond to claims that it had failed to fully cooperate with the investigation. HRPS also said they could not comment on the level of participation of the bank.

It’s been nearly a week since the incident, and Mueller says his family and police are no closer to finding those responsible.

“Days and days have passed since this occurred,” he said. “The trail has gotten so cold – it’s ridiculous – the investigators are trying to put this together piecemeal without the best evidence.”

He said Elisa has been a customer of TD’s for more than 50 years and described her current level of service as “absolutely unconscionable.”

Aside from the ongoing criminal investigation, Mueller said he hopes banks across the country consider stricter protocols when withdrawing money from accounts with power of attorneys named on them.

“If you were in the position to notify the bank, in writing, as a power of attorney, that you need to be notified when anything over $1,000 is being withdrawn, I think that would be a really powerful tool,” he said.

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