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 who withdrew $10,000 in the middle of a major snowstorm said it was “absolutely ruthless” for bank employees to allow her to withdraw the money without contacting her power of attorney.
On one day in late January, Elise received about seven phone calls at her home in Burlington, Ontario.
Her only grandson, Ben, had been arrested on a drug-related offense and needed $10,000 to cover bail, the caller explained to Elise, who CTV News Toronto wanted to use a pseudonym at her family’s request.
Burlington was just hit by a winter storm that brought up to eight inches of snow in some parts of southern Ontario, but the 95-year-old wanted to help her grandson, her family told CTV News Toronto, so she did what she was told her at.
“It’s a shame,” Bernie Mueller, Elise’s son, told CTV News Toronto.
Mueller said he previously explained the nature of “grandparent cheating” to his mother, but in the heat of the moment, the senior became overcome with emotion, he said, and may eventually become a victim.
“People might talk to older people in their families 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 the person they’re taking advantage of is acting solely on what feels like helping a family member in trouble.”
The incident happened on January 25 and began with a spate of phone calls to Elise’s home informing her of her grandson’s fraudulent detention.
They demanded $10,000 from her in return for her grandson’s release on bail.
“They were able to override their common sense and understanding and just get them emotional,” Mueller said.
After about an hour of conversation, Mueller said the scammers called a cab for Elise and arranged for her to be picked up at her home and driven to her bank – a TD branch on Brant Street in Burlington.
Mueller said he wasn’t sure if the taxi his mother got into was from a registered taxi company or belonged to those responsible.
“You have to understand that my mother, she’s 95, uses a walker and has congestive heart failure, so she thought it was a taxi,” he said.
Arriving at the branch around 5:30 p.m., Mueller said Elise went into the bank and asked the teller for the money, but was initially met with suspicion — so much so that the teller escorted her to the parking lot to order 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 presented it in hopes of helping her loved one.
Elise was then driven home, unharmed but robbed of a significant amount of money.
Mueller, who is acting as Elise’s attorney-in-fact 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.
When Mueller found out his mother had been the victim of a theft, he said he immediately reported it to the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS).
When asked for comment, HRPS confirmed to CTV News Toronto that the incident had been reported to them, but said they could not provide further details due to the ongoing investigation.
When Elise realized she had been scammed, she was very upset, Mueller said.
“I spoke to her and tried to reiterate and explain that it’s not her fault,” he said. “She feels a lot of guilt — after all the emotions are gone, common sense kicks in.”
“She’s very upset that she fell for it in the heat of the moment,” he said.
But his mother’s victimization and subsequent criminal investigation didn’t end Mueller’s troubles — he claims TD was less than helpful after the crime.
“THE PATH HAS GONE SO COLD”
Mueller said the bank failed to communicate with his family in a timely manner and failed to adequately cooperate with the investigation.
“The police don’t have even the most basic information about what happened and are prevented from speaking to bank employees,” he said. “They are clearly motivated to protect themselves and there is obviously a problem with how this has been done.”
When reached for comment, TD said, “I’m sorry to hear about this [Elise]’s circumstance and understand how distressing that must be.
“We can confirm that our internal team has been engaged and an information file has been opened. TD will provide all necessary details and information should an investigation be launched,” read an emailed statement.
The bank did not respond to claims that it did not fully cooperate with the investigation. HRPS also said they could not comment on the extent of the bank’s involvement.
It has 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 that incident,” he said. “The trail has gone so cold – it’s ridiculous – investigators are trying to piece this together without the best evidence.”
He said Elisa has been a TD customer for more than 50 years and described their current level of service as “absolutely unconscionable”.
Aside from the ongoing criminal investigation, Mueller said he hopes banks across the country will consider stricter protocols when withdrawing money from accounts with powers of attorney named on them.
“If you were able to put the bank in writing as a power of attorney to notify you if anything over $1,000 is withdrawn, I think that would be a really powerful tool,” he said.