Robbing the Bank

Ever wonder how easy it would be to rob a bank? Well, it happened recently at RBC in Vancouver by two ex-employees of the company. Find out how they pulled it off in this week’s Round table discussion.

Amanda: Good morning listeners! As we know, everything is changing in the digital revolution – including the more unsavory bits of society, like theft and bank robberies. This week, the executive team discusses an old school theft that took place at one of Canada’s top banks – RBC. Stay tuned.

Jim: Today’s topic is about bank security. We’re going to start with the physical security, and then move the conversation into cyber security.

Shaheerah: Just recently the news came up that RBC is accusing two of their former employees, who work at a Vancouver branch, that they stole more than 200,000 dollars from the vault. Now the bank has filed a civil lawsuit with the BC supreme court, alleging that Jeffery Ho Nam Lau and Maradona Hoang Vu*, have helped an accomplice steal more than 180,000 dollars in Canadian, and as well as 20,000 dollars in US dollars.

Archana: Like Jim mentioned, physical security and cyber security, so talking about physical security was the case that Shaheerah just recently spoke about. RBC, as a bank itself, they’ve been in a lot of hot water. In fact, late last year, in 2014 rather, RBC armoured trucks, they were attacked and a lot of money was stolen from these armoured trucks. Is it RBC in general, or is it just the physical security that these banks are investing in? What is the real crux of the problem here?

Jeremy: As we move towards more and more of a cashless society, I think we’re going to start finding that there’s less physical robberies of banks, and more on the virtual side.  And I think we’re also going to see that banks aren’t necessarily that open to reporting any security breaches on the information technology side. They’d rather deal with that internally without bringing up any negative press towards the security about the banks.

Archana: That’s an interesting point that Jeremy just made there, because of the three people accused in this recent case, the third person is in fact not an employee of RBC, but he was one of the accomplices in helping Lau and Hoang Vu. But the third person, his name is Nguyen, he actually pointed out the fact that maybe some high level officials were actually involved because RBC didn’t report this incident until after 10 months or so. Yeah, so that definitely adds to what Jeremy just said.

Jim: Let me understand this as a topic is that, RBC is taking three people to court for theft, and no doubt they have the appropriate evidence to make a court case. But it came 10 months after the fact?

Shaheerah: Nothing has actually been proven yet, but they are investigating. The robbery actually happened on two different occasions. It happened first on December 30th, 2013 and then January 31 2014. And I believe it was in February that they found out, and then in March they were both fired.

Amanda: A lot of money was stolen, and no one even noticed until two months after?

Jeremy: Well, my guess would be that they had a pretty decent idea of who did it the first time around, or they had a list of suspects in their mind and just gave them enough time for them to do it again. To put their heads in the proverbial nooses.

Jim: Holy cow! So, how much money is then thieved away from my personal bank account through cyber theft?

Jeremy: Well, probably none Jim, but possibly very small amounts. Such as in the movie Office Space. The premises of that movie was setting up a computer program that would skim off percentages, decimal points of a cent on interest rates overnight across millions of accounts that adds up to money. I don’t think you’d find it would be strategy for these criminals to deal with 5000 dollars or wipe out your whole account. They’d probably be better off taking a hundred dollars from a bunch of different accounts, and maybe half of them would notice and half of them wouldn’t. That’s what I would do if I was a cyber criminal, anyway.

Jim: The urban myths of the 1980s, when I first entered into the industry had come out that there were computer programs developed that could in fact skim off the fraction of cents from everybody accounts, which was worth a great deal of money. However, my knowledge base, which extends into the subject many years ago, said that those computer programs were tightened up dramatically, and now we fast forward another 30 years and we’re into that cashless society that you mentioned. I thought those were practices and disciplines all banks had in place at this point in time. Am I correct in that?

Jeremy: I don’t know the answer to that Jim, but I do know that it is really easy to rob a Canadian bank with just a piece of paper and no weapon. You can go up to the Teller and just put a note saying this is a robbery, and the banks will just give away money. I mean, it’s easy to do once but I mean, they’ll catch you. They have ways of tracking you down.  I knew a bank manager who worked for one of the big five banks, I won’t say which one or who it was, but they were robbed several times this way and they had some pretty funny stories about  how inept these criminals were. Including one in which a husband robbed a bank of a specific amount of money, down to the dollars and cents, and the wife later deposited the exact same amount of money in her account.

Archana: This recent case was probably just back to the basics, because this is two ex-employees of RBC, who were apparently roommates as well. Each had a combination to one of the locks, and security systems, and apparently that’s how they managed to get away with all the cash. But talking of cyber security, we at P4Capital do see how much our clients and the banks are heavily invested in technology, and trying to puts checks and balances in place so that things like these, things that are happening in the physical world don’t repeat themselves in the virtual world.

Amanda: That was the P4Capital team talking about physical and cyber theft of banks. Want to know more ? Check out our all new website at or follow us on twitter @pfourdigital or @p4capital. Thanks and see you next time.

*We incorrectly pronounced the names in the audio recording. Jeffery Ho Nam Lau and Maradona Hoang Vu are two people – not three.


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