Bank transfer fraud victims reveal how they lost thousands to scammers
(KTLA) – According to the FBI, about $2 billion is lost annually to wire fraud. Some cases involve newfangled payment apps, such as Zelle, while others rely on traditional money transfers from bank accounts.
In many cases, scammers reach out directly and try to gain the victims’ trust, according to experts.
“Unfortunately, it is used by many fraudsters who use social engineering tricks to convince consumers that they work for the bank or that they are there to help them in some way,” explained Linda Sherry, director of Consumer Action.
Bank transfer fraud may be even more prevalent during the holidays, experts say.
“It’s just very frustrating and very scary,” said Martina Boyeras Carbonell, who told Nexstar’s KTLA that she recently lost nearly $42,000 to a wire transfer scam involving her bank account.
“I feel violated. All my personal information is out and all my savings are gone.”
Carbonell said she received fake texts and calls from people claiming to be Chase bank employees. The scammers had done their homework.
“They already had my card numbers, my address, my account number, my company name, everything,” Carbonell said.
What the scammers apparently lacked was her business account password, which Carbonell said she may have inadvertently provided when she checked her online account during the two hours she was kept on the phone.
Sue Solleder, a San Diego County real estate agent, lost more than $81,000 after hackers accessed her Chase business account and made repeated attempts to transfer money elsewhere.
She said Chase prevented the first 10 attempts from going through, but gave the green light for the next five. Solleder’s funds were diverted to Delaware and then to Abu Dhabi.
“I was just so shocked,” Solleder said. “I’ve never heard of anyone taking $81,000 from anyone.”
Worse, after she brought the case to Chase, the bank rejected her claim for compensation, saying the cash transfers “were authorized” by Solleder.
That is a key point. Banks are taking advantage of a loophole in federal banking rules that frees them from compensating people if they determine the customer “authorized” a transaction by providing information that facilitated the transfer. But Solleder claims that was not the case.
After KTLA contacted Chase about the theft, the bank said it would fully compensate Solleder for her missing $81,000. A spokesperson for the bank said it was clear her account had been hacked, although the bank has previously insisted she was partly to blame.
In Carbonell’s case, Chase initially insisted that she would not be compensated either, because she provided information to the fraudsters. But when they were alerted that she was tricked into doing so, Chase reversed course and said Carbonell would also be paid back.
It is therefore important that consumers know how to best protect themselves from fraudsters by following three main rules: Never rush into a bank transfer or other unexpected transaction; call the bank yourself and confirm if there is a problem with your account; and get the bank to confirm that you did not authorize any transactions if you have been deferred.
Consumer advocates, meanwhile, say they want banks to do a better job of detecting and preventing suspicious wire transfers.
“Their system is weak,” Carbonell said. “Hackers are able to get into personal accounts, business accounts, and on top of that they blame the customer.”