Many of them have been victims of scammers with simple ploys
Millions of dollars entrusted to Quebec notaries have been compromised by easily detectable frauds, Le Journal learned . A situation “highly worrying” in front of which the Chamber of Notaries nevertheless rejects any responsibility.
Since last September, nearly a dozen notaries in the province have been the victims of phishing in relatively simple schemes. A phenomenon “in recrudescence”, according to internal documents that we obtained.
By presenting false identity documents, the fraudsters in question notably had access to the trust accounts of these professionals. These accounts are used by notaries to deposit money on behalf of a third party, in the case of a real estate transaction, for example.
“These are reports of digital identity theft, a bit like those that can be victims Mr. and Mrs. Everybody. Except that in this case, fraudsters have had access to the trust accounts of notaries, “says Johanne Dufour, director of communications at the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
According to her, they are “isolated cases”, even if they are more and more numerous.
The room is unloading
Although her main mission is to ensure the protection of the public who use the services of its members, Ms. Dufour says that it is up to them to handle these frauds with their financial institutions. The Chamber does not intend to take additional measures.
“[The Chamber] has no control over this, since it is the responsibility of each notary. Notaries do not have the obligation to report it to the House, but they are encouraged to do so. It is the financial institutions that are responsible for these accounts, not us. We are in touch with them. As soon as we have reports, the House communicates with the financial institutions, to make them aware, “she continues.
However, the Chambre des notaires du Québec states on its website that it “carries out a very strict control of the trust accounts of notaries”, by requiring an annual audit.
“She also audits these accounts through professional inspection,” says one.
To help its members avoid them better, the House says it offers training on fraud. It also gives them regular reminders.
All trust accounts must be opened with a Canadian financial institution whose funds are covered by deposit insurance, which means that the persons who entrusted these funds to the notaries were quickly able to receive compensation.
In several cases, the notaries targeted by the fraudsters had accounts with Desjardins.
In others, CIBC or Royal Bank checks have been used to scam notaries.
CIBC and Desjardins told the Journal that these frauds targeted professionals very seriously, while RBC spokesperson Denis Dubé refused to answer our questions.
When similar cases arise, Desjardins teams intervene very quickly “to secure files, accompany members and investigate fraud,” says Desjardins spokeswoman Annie Josiane Bujold.
“In these cases, investigations led to a full refund of notaries. When required, it is certain that Desjardins collaborates with the police forces, “she continues.
CORPORATE CYBER FRAUD COSTS A FORTUNE
Canadian businesses are losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year because of electronic fraud, such as the fall of Quebec notarial firms this fall.
Fraudsters are often at the cutting edge of technology, while large Canadian companies tend to lag behind the use of new technologies, according to a study conducted by PriceWaterhouseCooper last year.
In the past two years, cybercrime has become the most reported economic crime in Canada (46%), far ahead of asset embezzlement (38%) and consumer fraud (36%).
The tactics employed are numerous: 58% of companies reported that scammers had used phishing, as was the case in many notaries, 45% mentioned malicious software and 20% say that hackers took advantage of flaws in their network.
Everywhere on the planet
Obviously, this phenomenon is global and does not affect the companies here.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates that companies lost as much as $ 2.3 billion globally between 2013 and 2016, using a very simple money transfer scheme.
In these situations, crooks pretend to be a legitimate supplier or customer by sending fraudulent e-mails, for example by means of an e-mail address similar to the legitimate address.
In 2016, for example, a US company lost no less than $ 100 million to individuals who simply created a fake email address. As part of the lawsuit, the company sought to recover approximately $ 25 million that the scammers had placed in twenty bank accounts located around the globe.
Not just on the internet
In other more sophisticated cases, fraud begins online, but fraudulent checks or phony bank drafts take place. For example, some Quebec notaries have received fake checks from CIBC or the Royal Bank of Canada, in the context of real estate transactions.
“Anyone who is uncertain about the quality or veracity of a check or bank draft is encouraged to call his bank” before proceeding with the transaction, CIBC spokesperson told the Journal, Trish Tervit.