Peoples Trust is a federally-regulated bank, known for providing high rates on savings products.
You can get 1.8 per cent on an online savings account and 2.1 per cent on a one-year guaranteed investment certificate at the Vancouver-based bank, which is a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corp.
But this small bank, started in 1985, may soon be known for something else besides high savings rates.
“Nothing is more important to Peoples Trust than the privacy and security of your information,” the company says. “Unfortunately, privacy incursions are becoming more and more common.”
This is an oblique reference to a privacy incursion involving Peoples Trust and a database used to accept online applications. There is no information at the website and no news release has been issued — at least, not yet.
About 12,000 to 13,000 customers have been notified in writing that their personal information may be at risk.
In September, Peoples Trust heard from eight people (four customers and four non-customers). They had received a text message purporting to be from the company, asking them to call a long-distance number in the 801 area code (Utah).
“We don’t communicate that way,” chief operating officer Bill Moffatt said in an interview, adding that the text message was somewhat illiterate.
“The phone number was not in service and is still out of service. We check it every day.”
Peoples Trust, alarmed by the text messages, hired a forensic investigator who found signs that one of its databases had been hacked by an IP address originating in China.
However, peoples trust bank online was no evidence that customers’ information was actually taken from the database.
“This database was totally separate from our banking system, so no banking information, such as balances, account numbers, logins or passwords could be obtained,” the company said in a letter to affected clients, dated Oct. 25.
“The personal information that may have been accessed includes customer name, address, telephone number, email address, date of birth and social insurance number.”
The people who received letters, Moffatt said, were a small minority of the total number of retail depositors. The company is still trying to track down those who may have moved.
Carol, a customer who contacted me, didn’t like being told to ask for her credit report from Equifax and TransUnion (Canada’s two credit reporting agencies).
“I do it periodically and know it’s a cumbersome process to receive a free copy,” she said. “Shouldn’t Peoples arrange for current credit reports from each organization to be peoples trust bank online to best 10 year mortgage refinance rates affected people?”
Moffatt said the company had paid the credit bureaus to put a flag on the customers’ reports. This would alert lenders to a possible data compromise and warn them to take steps to verify their identity before proceeding.
The flag would stay on their credit files peoples trust bank online six years unless customers called the bureaus to have it removed.
Lucy, whose husband received a letter, felt it was easier to change your banking information than to change your social insurance number.
“If you forget your password, Peoples resets it to peoples trust bank online a portion of your SIN. This peoples trust bank online ridiculous, given the breach,” she said.
“The company is responsible for safeguarding personal information and did not do so. Further, there is no warning at the website about this.”
Moffatt admitted responsibility for hackers getting into the database. The company’s systems were supposed to be tested for security later this month.
“We regret what happened. It shouldn’t have happened. It won’t happen again, since we have emptied the database,” he said.
Peoples Trust is talking to computer experts and plans to run security tests more often in the future. It also plans to publicize the incident soon.
If you’re a customer, check for irregularities in your account. And if you get emails or text messages purporting to be from Peoples Trust asking for personal information, call 1-855-286-8505 to report it.
You can also contact Peoples Trust’s privacy officer Darren Kozol in Vancouver at 1-604-331-2238 or by email at [email protected] .
Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at [email protected] or www.ellenroseman.com