On June 12th, 2021, I woke up in the morning and walked to the nearest coffee shop. There was nothing unique about this Saturday morning other than the fact that I had arrived in Calgary the night before and was visiting my girlfriend’s family. I face-timed my mom like I always do on Saturdays and I have done for the last four years. See…. nothing different about this Saturday.
While speaking to my mom, she told me that she was going to take a short trip soon. I said I would send her some money and she cheekily obliged.
After we finished talking, I logged onto my bank account and immediately realized that I had been completely wiped out. Yup, wiped the F* out.
It didn’t make sense. I questioned whether I had moved my money somewhere or put it into another account? I hadn’t. I looked at the transaction history and it became evident that on that same day, which could only have been a few moments ago, five transfers had been made from my account that wiped it clean.
In that moment, I didn’t know what to do so I did what I thought someone who just lost their life savings would have done: I grabbed my chest even though my heart was beating fine; I took deep breaths even though I wasn’t experiencing any shortness of breath. I had absolutely no idea how to respond.
My checking account had been completely ransacked. If this was done at any other time in the last 31 years of my life, this would not have been a problem. I use my checking account like a general email box and when I receive payments, I file them away into separate folders. There is never more than a few hundred dollars in the account.
However, on June 12th, a few days prior, I had pulled money from various savings accounts to bring it together for a down payment I was preparing to make on an investment property with my best friend.
I called my aunt right away. She has always had access to my checking account because when I first moved to Canada as a student, my parents would send me money. She would help pay my bills and then eventually I began to send money to a couple of different family members, and she would help facilitate that.
I kept calling her, but the call wouldn’t go through. Messages weren’t being received on her end. She wasn’t picking up her landline or her cell phone. I called the fraud department, got everything frozen and then I received a text from my sister-in-law which had been forwarded by my aunt saying, “tell Kumail to call me, URGENT!”
I kept calling her but no answer, and then finally a random number called; I picked up, it was my aunt, she said “Kumi, we’ve been scammed.”
A few hours prior to our conversation, my aunt had received a call from an Amazon Prime representative claiming that her most recent payment hadn’t gone through. She had been meaning to cancel her subscription, so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to knock an item off her to-do list.
The representative notified her that once the outstanding payment was settled, he could cancel her subscription. He kept her on the line, kept extracting information, and eventually got her to log in to her mobile banking. He was then able to hack into her phone and block it, which is why I couldn’t get a hold of her.
He then logged into her account, changed her passwords, and made multiple transfers within a few minutes. Once my aunt had figured out what had happened, it was too late.
A little over six figures had been transferred from our accounts collectively and overpaid into her credit card. From her credit card, twenty-six transfers were made through a company called WorldRemit to India.
The bank must have been asleep. They had not frozen or stopped any of these transfers. When my aunt realized she was being scammed, she called up the banks fraud department and was on hold with them for two hours before anyone answered the phone!
It took two hours to connect with the fraud department of one of Canada’s 5 biggest banks. By that time, all the money had already been transferred and she was directed to call the transfer company.
She got on a call with WorldRemit and asked them to stop all the transfers. They said they would do their best.
From then, we hung in limbo, shocked, anxious, and terrified at the thought that we had lost so much so quickly.
I was in a new city, in a new apartment, sleeping in a new bed, while physically being in an MST time zone but working on EST time and getting absolutely smashed at work. I was in unknown territories and there was nothing familiar about where I was that was allowing me to process what had just happened.
I felt like I was doing time, and all I wanted was to be back home; in my own bed, in my own city, with my own routines, where I could feel some semblance of familiarity that would help me process what had just happened.
On Wednesday June 16th, WorldRemit reached out to us with an update.
To be continued…