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'Quite beside ourselves': Manitoba couple say inheritance was removed from their bank account

Canadian currency. (CTV News) Canadian currency. (CTV News)

A Manitoba couple wants answers after an inheritance cheque they deposited disappeared from one of their bank accounts with no notice – a problem they've been told was due to the pen they used to sign the cheque.

Christine Loff says her mother died in 2016, leaving an estate connected to a PNC Bank in New Jersey. Loff said, in the years since her mother's death, it has not been an easy process to get the inheritance money and distribute it to the proper beneficiaries.

Loff said on March 13, she took a cheque for her mother's inheritance money to an RBC Bank and deposited the money. She said she was told it would take 15 days for the money to clear.

Almost two weeks later, Loff noticed the money was gone along with more than $4,600 from her savings account.

"There was no explanation and the money was just gone from my account," said Loff. "We're quite beside ourselves."

When she followed up with RBC, Loff said no one could tell her what happened to the money.

"It was a considerable sum of money," she said. "I mean it was over $300,000 from my mother's estate, that's part of my inheritance and it's just poof, gone."

Loff's husband Vincent Ellin said they didn't believe it was a scam.

"We're almost paranoid about internet security and banking security, etc., that we would have spotted any sort of scam or anything that was suspicious very quickly," said Ellin.

The couple said they confirmed with RBC's security department that it wasn't a scam.

Three days later, Loff said they heard from an RBC Bank manager and were told the money was removed from Loff's account and put back into her mother's estate due to concerns PNC had brought up about Loff's signature on the cheque.

Ellin said the $4,600 that had been removed from Loff's account was returned shortly after talking with the bank manager.

"The RBC people on the other end, instead of reversing the amount of the initial deposit, they used a different exchange rate so her savings account got debited an additional amount," said Ellin.

A spokesperson for RBC said the bank could not provide details about the situation due to client privacy but noted they are continuing to work to completely address the situation.


While they were able to figure out where all the money went, Loff said she is still baffled at the reasoning.

In talking with PNC Bank, she said she was told the reason the cheque wasn't approved was because a different pen was used for her signature.

"(They) went into excruciating detail about how many different kinds of pens there are," she said. "You have to use the same pen, make sure it has the same colour. And I couldn't get any other sensible answer out of them."

While Loff said she couldn't remember the pen used to sign the cheque, she knows it was her signature.

Michelle Gallant, a professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba, said little details like the pen used to sign a check, can be a trigger for banks.

"Indicia, that there may be a problem," said Gallant. "When you think about it, think about all the indications of fraud."

Gallant said the steps PNC took make sense as the bank was doing its due diligence with the account. 

"So that enhanced diligence is, on the one hand, something that we appreciate, right?" Gallant said, "By the same token, those same acts of due diligence make it a little more troublesome if we think, 'Well, there's nothing wrong with this transaction. Why are you holding it up?'"

Gallant also noted the banking rules are different in Canada compared to the United States and when money is crossing borders, it can be a more difficult process.

"It's simply because of jurisdiction. So federal jurisdiction covers banks in Canada. So banks are regulated, you know, from coast to coast to coast. As soon as you cross a boundary, you're engaging with the legal system and the regulation of a different country."

Gallant added money transfers are also more difficult when money is switching between accounts from two different people.

For Loff, she is still waiting to hear more details from PNC Bank on what steps need to be taken, saying she has left it up to her lawyer moving forward.

She hopes this situation is dealt with soon so she can move on.

"My mother died six-a-half years ago. All I know is that simple things that ought to take a short period of time have a habit of stretching into months and years, because every step there's something wrong," Loff said. "I wouldn't be surprised if this stretches into the summer."

CTV News has reached out to PNC Bank for comment on the situation and has yet to receive a statement. Top Stories

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