Alert Bank Teller Puts Stop to Fraud Spree

21 May 2015

Matthew Ouderkirk had been on a crime spree for more than a week when he entered the Bank of Montreal in Tillsonburg, a sleepy small town in Ontario. Using false identification, Ouderkirk, 27, had defrauded employees at the Tillsonburg Scotia Bank and CIBC, in addition to several other banks in nearby Kitchener and Aylmer, all during the period between March 25 and April 7.

Therefore, he probably wasn’t expecting to be caught at the Bank of Montreal, either. However, an alert bank teller’s suspicions were aroused by the fraudulent-looking ID he produced when he claimed to have previously opened an account with the bank and asked for a debit card to be issued to him. The teller alerted her manager to the situation, and the manager promptly called the police. They arrived at around 10 a.m. on April 7 and arrested Ouderkirk on seven counts of identity fraud, three counts of identity theft, two counts of fraud under $5,000 and one count of obtaining credit by false pretences or fraud.

According to the Oxford County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the teller’s wariness played “a huge role” in bringing Ouderkirk’s crime spree to an end. The OPP’s investigation uncovered the fact that this had been just one in a series of frauds in the area, which had so far led to losses of more than $1,700 for the banks involved.

It seems likely that Ouderkirk was using stolen identity information to create false IDs, which he then used to defraud banks by posing as one of their customers. In order to prevent fraudsters from gaining access to your personal information and using it for identity fraud, it’s important to follow a few precautionary steps. Here’s what you can do to proactively help protect yourself against identity theft:

  • Don’t carry unnecessary documents with you. If your wallet or purse is stolen, you want the thieves to have access to as little information about you as possible. This means that you should leave most identity documents, such as your birth certificate, social insurance (SIN) card and passport, at home when you leave the house. It’s unlikely that you’ll need them during any ordinary outing, and keeping them at home increases the security of your personal information.
  • Shred old documents. Simply throwing away your old documents isn’t enough to keep them from getting into the hands of identity thieves, who often sift through dumpsters to find discarded financial and personal information. Instead, put documents like old credit card receipts, bank statements and unused cheques from old accounts through a shredder.
  • Don’t have cheques sent in the mail. As recent rashes of theft from community mailboxes across the country make clear, your financial information is not necessarily safe in your mailbox. Instead of having cheques sent to you, go to your local bank branch to pick them up yourself.
  • Don’t write down passwords and PINs. If your private account access information is stored only in your brain, identity thieves can’t get to it. Memorize this information instead of writing it down to protect your accounts from criminals.

If you fear the consequences of identity theft, signing up for a credit monitoring service might bring you some peace of mind by alerting you to certain types of activity in your credit files that could indicate fraud.