Sask. farming family out hundreds of thousands of dollars in apparent case of identity theft
PEEBLES -- A Saskatchewan farming family says they have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars after someone stole their identity and drained their farm operation banking account.
Andrew and Laurie Johnson first noticed something was wrong when one of their family's cell phones stopped working a few days ago.
"We made some calls to SaskTel and they told us that her number had been ported out to another carrier," Laurie said. "Nobody had initiated that at all."
The Johnsons were able to get the number switched back successfully. They didn't realize there was a problem until their bank contacted them about large sums of money electronically transferred from their farm's operating account.
"We thought it was a $10,000 transfer, but then there was $90,000 and it just getting to be more and more and more until we were into multiple hundreds of thousands," Laurie said.
The farm account was completely drained and a substantial line of credit was also maxed out. The Johnsons say they don’t know if they are protected from a loss of this size.
"It was difficult to really comprehend what we're supposed to do and the magnitude of the numbers," Andrew said.
Their bank is working to trace the money, but the family doesn’t know if their losses will be recovered. They have also contacted the RCMP about the theft.
The Johnsons believe a phone number was stolen to aid in the identity theft.
"It is way too easy to transfer to another carrier out of your name," Laurie said. "We were just absolutely shocked at how simple it was."
Customers can ask their cell phone providers to block transactions transferring their numbers from their account unless they are called for confirmation.
"We just wanted to get the information out there that people need port protection on their phone," Laurie said.
The Johnson family is now trying to focus on their work, rather than their losses. They're hopeful the money can be recovered, or their losses reimbursed.