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How A Woman Lost Her Life Savings In A Bank Scam That Began With A Text Message

The woman had received a text message seemingly from her bank that inquired about an unauthorized $35 debit card charge that happened in another state.
UPDATED JAN 22, 2024
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Tara Winstead
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Tara Winstead

Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 30, 2023. It has since been updated.

Deborah Moss, who runs a small catering business, was robbed in a sophisticated bank scam that started with a simple text. According to CBS News, Moss had put in a decade's work building her business from scratch. She told the publication that she had finally saved enough to lead a peaceful life in Guerneville, California. However, her "whole life fell apart" when she received a text message seemingly from her bank that inquired about an unauthorized $35 debit card charge that happened in another state.

Moss promptly replied to the text and received a call from a person who claimed to be a representative from Chase Bank with the caller ID displaying the bank's name. The caller identified herself as Miss Barbara and said she was speaking from the Chase ATM. She asked her if she could issue a debit card to resolve the alleged fraud charge.

Pexels | Sora Shimazaki
Pexels | Sora Shimazaki

Moss told the publication that the caller said that she needed to verify Moss's identity and asked Moss to read out the numbers from a text message that she had sent to her phone.

"And I would just repeat those numbers to her, and she'd say, 'That's great. Thank you so much, Ms. Moss,'" she said.

Over the next few weeks, this caller kept calling Moss each time with a new problem with the delivery of the card and asked Moss to verify her identity by reading back the numbers from the text messages she would send her. 

Moss soon visited her bank where the supervisor informed her that her account was empty and her savings of nearly $160,000 was gone. 

"That was all my money. It took me 12 years to get that money, and that was my life savings," Moss said.

Pexels | Leeloo Thefirst
Pexels | Leeloo Thefirst

Moss also learned that the numbers she read out to the caller were sent by Chase Bank to authenticate transfers, and allowed the fraudsters to bypass Moss' security measures to transfer the funds into their account. In the span of a week, the hackers were able to conduct six wire transfers of various amounts with one being as big as $48,000. Moss filed a police report and asked Chase Bank to resolve the issue. However, after the bank's review, they concluded that Moss didn't take "appropriate steps to protect her bank account from theft and unauthorized use".

"You think of your bank as being someplace that you put your money so that it's safe but it's not safe," said Moss. "It needs to change," she said, as per The Sun. Chase told CBS that the bank officials tried to contact Moss via phone and email during the wire transactions, but Moss says she did not receive any calls or messages. Chase reminded its customers that they don't normally reach out via phone calls. They asked the customers to avoid clicking on any links sent via texts and emails and asked them to avoid sharing pins and passcodes.  

The Red Flags Customers Shouldn't Miss

Pexels | Anna Tarazevich
Pexels | Anna Tarazevich

This scam is a stark reminder for everyone. The escalating trend of fraud and financial losses reached a whopping $8.8 billion last year, marking a 30% surge from the previous year, as per CBS News. Let's look at the warning signs that say that you may be dealing with fraud, as per Arbor

1. A problem is involved

They will tell you how there's a problem that they are trying to solve for you.

2. Followed by an urgent request

They normally force victims into making quick decisions. Never fall for it. 

3. Asked to verify sensitive information on the phone

Never ever!

4. You receive a shady email

Pay close attention to ensure legitimacy.

5. It's all too good to be true

If the offer seems too appealing, it's probably a scam.