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This article was published 11/7/2016 (1764 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BRANDON — The victim of an Internet scam owing $19,000 to the Royal Bank of Canada, Ekaterina Lobaeva realizes her family’s new life in Brandon may not be an improvement after immigrating from Russia.
Lobaeva responded to a call offering her a secret-shopper job in May, the expense of a second car and accreditation to teach English weighing heavily on her mind. Lobaeva was sent a cheque for more than $19,000 and given several assignments by a man named Thomas Wilson. Two weeks later the bank told her the cheque was fraudulent.
"The first message, I just — I ignored. I don’t know why. Then, like all these bills and stuff, I thought maybe it’s a good idea to earn a little bit more money, to feel a bit more, like, free," Lobaeva said.
Her first assignment was to deposit the cheque into her account at RBC and evaluate the teller’s customer service. She was told not to tell the bank where the money came from. Instead, she said the money came from her father in Russia.
RBC said it would take four working days to guarantee the cheque’s legitimacy, so Lobaeva waited until the next week to complete her next assignment — a $300 purchase from Walmart.
Then, she was told to send the money back through three different banks, so another secret shopper could start work. At each bank she transferred $6,000 from her original account.
After completing each task, Lobaeva wrote a report and submitted the receipts. To her, everything looked official and "like a real job."
She learned, however, reality was the exact opposite. Roughly two weeks after her original $19,000 deposit, Lobaeva’s card was blocked. When she went to RBC, a manager pulled her into another room.
"The first question she asked was, ‘How are you going to pay us?’"
RBC froze her accounts and used the couple’s $12,000 savings to begin paying off the debt.
"Generally, clients are responsible for paying that debt because they are responsible for all transactions that happen with their account," said Caroline Sanchez, a client care manager at an RBC branch in Brandon.
Normally, RBC’s fraud department flags unusual activity. Sanchez said it takes between one and 10 days to do this, but customers should be more responsible for identifying risks.
"If it sounds too good to be true, then usually it is," Sanchez said.
Lobaeva went to police, but there isn’t much to be done, said Staff Sgt. Kevin Loewen.
"They’re very difficult to actually ever track down, ’cause more often than not they’re done through public service, or the use of computer access that’s accessible to anyone in the public," said Loewen, adding fraudsters can work from hundreds or thousands of kilometres away.
With her information in the hands of authorities, Lobaeva has been left waiting.
"I have no hope, honestly. I am waiting for the bad things to happen right now. I can’t wait for the good ones to come."
— Brandon Sun