In a stark reminder of the growing threat of financial scams, small-time catering company owner Deborah Moss finds herself embroiled in a complex bank scam that began with a seemingly innocuous text message.
Moss, who has dedicated more than a decade to building her business, says she finally accumulated enough savings to pursue a peaceful life in rural Guernsville, California. But her dreams begin to be shattered after she receives a text purporting to be from her bank, Chase, inquiring about an unauthorized $35 debit card charge from another state. At first dismissing it as a minor inconvenience, Moss responded immediately.
Shortly after responding to the text, Moss receives a call from someone claiming to be a representative from Chase Bank, with the caller ID showing the name of the bank. On the other end of the line was a woman who identified herself as “Miss Barbara” from Chase ATM. She requested permission from Moss to issue a new debit card to resolve the alleged fraudulent charge.
Moss says Miss Barbara told her she needed to verify Moss’s identity and to do so, she instructed Moss to read the numbers from a subsequent text message to her over the phone.
“I would just repeat those numbers to her,” Moss said, “and she’d say, ‘That’s cool.'” Thank you very much, Mrs. Moss.”
Over the next week, Miss Barbara called Moss several times, each time saying there was a problem with the card delivery and each time asking Moss to verify her identity by reading the numbers from subsequent text messages.
The devastating truth only came to light after Moss visited her nearest branch. A supervisor told her her account had been drained, leaving her life savings of about $160,000 completely depleted.
Moss said, “That was all my money. It took me 12 years to get that money, and that was my life savings.”
Moss’s plight highlights the escalating trend of fraud and the alarming financial losses suffered by Americans, with reported losses reaching $8.8 billion last year, marking a 30% increase over the previous year, according to government data.
The text messages asking Moss to authenticate her account were authentic: they were sent by Chase Bank as part of a two-factor authentication system, designed to enhance customer security. But the scammers tricked Moss into revealing the numbers to them over the phone, enabling them to bypass security measures and transfer large sums of money from Moss’s account. In just one week, they made six wire transfers, some of which amounted to nearly $48,000.
Moss filed a police report and filed a claim with Chase Bank, hoping to recover her stolen money. However, her hopes were dashed after a five-week wait, the bank denied her claim.
Chase Bank apparently faulted Moss, writing to her in a letter, “During our review we found that you did not take appropriate steps to protect your account against theft or unauthorized use.” Bank officials said they would not repay her account, leaving Moss devastated and feeling betrayed.
“My world collapsed, my whole world collapsed,” Moss said. “You think of your bank as a place to put your money that’s safe but it’s not safe. It needs to change.”
JPMorgan Chase provided a statement to CBS News in response, saying, “Unfortunately, Ms. Moss’s account was compromised as a result of fraudsters deceiving her and obtaining her personal confidential information.”
Chase Bank told CBS News that bank officials tried to contact Moss by phone and email regarding the wire transfers at the time. Moss says she has not received any such letters. Chase gave the following advice to customers to remember: Don’t share personal account information such as ATM PINs or passcodes. Keep in mind that the bank doesn’t usually initiate phone calls, but if you want to make sure you’re talking to the bank, call the number on the back of your card. Finally, avoid clicking suspicious links in texts or emails.
JPMorgan Chase has defended its commitment to fighting fraud, saying in a statement: “Each year we invest hundreds of millions of dollars in authentication, risk models, technology, and customer education to make it more difficult for fraudsters to deceive customers.”
David Weber, a certified fraud examiner and professor of forensic accounting, believes that, in his opinion, Chase Bank is to blame for Moss’ failure and neglect to implement stronger security measures.
“Anyway you look at it, they failed. They let her down,” Weber said. “The bank could have asked her to come and sign the transfer form in person. They left everything to her so that she would be in danger, and now they say they have no responsibility.”
He also said that existing two-factor authentication systems, including text messaging, are insufficient to combat the increasingly sophisticated tactics used by fraudsters.
“This happens hundreds and thousands of times a day in the US using the exact same techniques here,” Weber said. “Two-factor authentication is not strong enough to protect this customer.”
Additional information from JPMORGAN CHASE:
- The threats change every day as the scams become more sophisticated. As threats evolve, so do our methods for preventing both fraud and deception.
- We know we can’t stop these scams alone. It takes a holistic, hands-on deck approach in partnership with law enforcement, the private sector, and government to help prevent, avoid, and prosecute these crimes.
- Consumers play a critical role too, which is why we continue to educate them about the latest scams so they can spot and avoid them.
Fraud prevention tips:
- Protect your personal account information, ATM PINs, passwords and one-time passcodes. If someone contacts you and asks for this information, especially if it’s someone claiming to be from your bank, don’t share it with them.
- If you want to make sure you’re talking to a legitimate representative of the company that called you, call the number on their official website.
- If you want to make sure you are speaking to a legitimate representative of your bank, call the number on the back of your card or visit a branch
- Never click on suspicious links in a text message or email and never give anyone remote access to your phone or computer.
- Do not respond to phone, text or Internet requests for money or access to your computer or bank accounts. Banks will never call, text or email asking you to send money to yourself or anyone else to prevent fraud.
- To learn more about common scams and ways to protect yourself, visit: www.chase.com/security-tips.
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