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Woman sues TD Bank for violating a duty of care to its customers

Calgary (February 05, 2020) – Helen Franiel is suing TD Bank for violating a duty of care to its customers regarding fraud prevention. The TD Bank customer lost more than $240K over a 10-month period in a series of scams. Multiple bank drafts mostly just under $10K were prepared by tellers at one of two TD branches in Lethbridge. She argues that the bank should have recognized the signs of fraud and put an end to the methodical scams. TD Bank says that there is no such duty of care and that reasonable oversight has been issued. Franiel is seeking the money that she lost plus bank fees and exemplary damages.

Helen Franiel, an elderly woman from Lethbridge is suing TD Bank ‘on the basis that the Bank owes a duty of care to its customers to help prevent frauds like this.’ The 81-year-old TD customer was systemically defrauded out of more than $240,000 over a period of 10-month in a series of frauds.

‘Her Bank account was being drained’

According to a document of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta from January 28, the fraudulent activities started in March 2018. Franiel was the victim of 26 scams. She was systemically defrauded. A lottery scam and a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scam were included in the series of frauds.

Over a 10-month period, she was ‘persuaded to go to the bank 26 times for bank drafts to give to the fraud artists.’ The bank drafts were prepared by tellers of one of two TD branches in Lethbridge.

After about 5 months, Franiel’s son visited a Calgary TD branch and explained the teller ‘that he believed his mother might be the victim of fraud.’ The court document stated that ‘some kind of note was digitally placed on the plaintiff’s [Franiel’s] account.’ Most of the drafts were for just under $10,000 and 12 of the bank drafts were drawn after TD was alerted of the fraudulent activity.

After the pattern was discovered, the bank was able to recover $8,000.

The duty of care: Red flags should have alerted TD Bank

The court document states that the elderly customer attended regularly one of two branches of the financial institution in Lethbridge for bank drafts of significant amount, which were prepared face to face by tellers of the bank.

Franiel argues that the bank should have recognized the signs of fraud and should have stepped in. ‘All of the facts in her case should have raised a number of “red flags” to alert the Bank, either its tellers or branch management, that this elderly lady was being victimized and her Bank account was being drained,’ the court summarized the plaintiff’s point.

TD bank argues that ‘there is no such duty of care as the plaintiff asserts, and if there is, the Bank exercised reasonable oversight in the circumstances.’

Recovery against those who assisted the fraudsters

Recoveries against fraudsters themselves in some cases are long term projects. In such cases, fraud victims may seek recovery from those who intentionally or unwittingly assisted the fraudsters orchestrate their schemes. After the recovery of $8,000, Franiel lost $241,730, which she is seeking in the civil case plus bank fees as well as exemplary damages of $150,000.

Read more: Recovery against banks for fraud victims; two big Ponzi schemes

The cited court document is a court decision that arose from an application regarding the pre-trial examinations for discovery. The plaintiff sought an order compelling TD ‘to answer questions and provide replies to undertakings requested at the pre-trial questioning of the Bank’s corporate representative.’ The witness refused to answer some questions in pre-trial discovery. The plaintiff claims that the bank’s refusals to answer certain questions were improper.