Phoenix woman warns of bank fraud text scam that cost her $2,000

Before you click that link supposedly coming from your bank or credit union, watch for these signs that it's a scam.
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 1:56 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) It started with one text. Kelsey Herrett was in the middle of her workday, but the message seemed urgent and caught her attention. “It says, ‘Wells Fargo Alerts. Did you authorize a $4,427.10 wire or quick pay to Alice Rear? Reply yes, no, or text stop to opt out,’” Herrett said.

She responded no. Little did she know that’s all it took for her to end up on a scammer’s hook. “Within half a second I get a call,” she said. “I answered. It was the Wells Fargo agent, so I thought, telling me that there had been some unusual activity on my account and that they would need to walk me through some verification steps.”

Herrett checked and confirmed the number was Wells Fargo’s customer service line. She didn’t realize it had been spoofed and was not actually a phone call from the bank. Now, according to the caller, Herrett needed to transfer her money into a new, secure bank account. “He even went as far as saying, ‘As a Wells Fargo agent, I will never ask you to repeat any passwords or any of your specific login information to me,’ and so he was making me feel comfortable and safe.”

Herrett got a case number, a case manager, a new account number and a new routing number. None of it was real, but she still didn’t know it. “Thinking back now, it’s like, yeah, I did everything. I made all the moves, but he coached me through it and made me feel like he was a legitimate agent,” she said. Herrett transferred almost $2,000 out of her account and right into the scammer’s hands.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, bogus bank fraud warnings, just like the one Herrett received, are the most common form of text message scam reported to the agency. “Financial institutions have always been a huge bullseye and a target, but it’s not the institution themselves because they have the ability to protect their environment. So what’s the criminal going to do? Take the path of least resistance and attack the consumers,” said Martin Bencic, the program director of the Glendale Community College cybersecurity program.

FTC data shows consumers reported losing $330 million to text message scams in 2022. “People need to be vigilant and take a look at where they’re responding if they get a notification from the bank,” Bencic said. “Pick up the phone and call the bank, on the phone number that you know the bank to, not the one that the bad guy provides you.” Financial institutions, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Chase have issued warnings about phishing email and text scams. Fraud experts caution it is important to never share personal information, including passwords, PINs or access codes. Bank customers should also avoid clicking on links.

“[The scammer] had said within 24 hours, I would be receiving new banking information. So the next morning, I woke up and I just had a feeling. I was like, ‘I’m not getting that new bank information, am I?’” she realized.

Herrett knows her money is gone. She says the bank already opened and closed its fraud investigation. “It was just shy of $2,000, which is a lot of money, but I will recover from that. There are sweet little old ladies out there that might be trusting and sending their entire life savings and might not recover from that,” she said. “I feel passionately about making sure people know these well-articulated, well-dialed-in scams are happening.”

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