A Roswell grandfather says he lost much of his life savings after scammers targeted him.
David Head showed Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik an email he received from someone claiming to be an anti-virus billing department, informing him they’d renewed his subscription.
“It was something I had not ordered so in the normal course of business I contacted the 800 number on the e-mail,” he said. “It was answered professionally giving the name of the company.”
Head said the customer service representative convinced him to log on to his bank account and allow him remote access so he could “refund” him the money.
“I entered the four nines and then immediately three more nines appeared on the screen and my account was credited with $99,999.99,” he said. “The individual on the phone also expressed concern that it appeared I was trying to abscond with $100,000 from the company, that I was in legal jeopardy and that we needed to resolve the situation immediately.”
Head said the person suggested he send wire transfers from his bank, so he went to a Truist Bank branch near his Roswell home to send the cash.
“Gave them the two wires,” he said. “They expressed no concern about wiring this amount of money to Thailand, which is a little odd, because like many of us I only keep several thousand dollars in my debit account.”
When Head tried to contact the customer service agent again, the line was disconnected, and he soon realized that $173,000 from a home equity line of credit account was gone.
“It’s destroyed my life in the sense that I’m very hurt for my family,” he said. “Nearly all the equity in my home is gone. It no longer exists.”
Petchenik reached out to Truist bank to find out why tellers didn’t flag the wires as suspicious. A spokesperson sent this statement:
"We are working with our client to provide assistance and to attempt to help recover his funds from the receiving bank. Unfortunately, these types of an antivirus scams are prevalent and we try to educate our clients to be wary of suspicious messages and requests for personal information. We advise consumers to never give out any personally identifiable information (PII) like account numbers, PINs and social security numbers in a response to a phone call, email or text message if the source is not known or can’t be verified by calling back the institution.
And if a consumer falls victim to an antivirus fraudster, we recommend immediately contacting their financial institution, filing a police report, changing usernames and passwords on the computer, installing up-to-date anti-virus software and having a professional scan the computer for any malicious code or viruses. More fraud prevention tips can be found here: https://www.suntrust.com/fraud-and-security-department/protection-and-prevention."
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Channel 2 Consumer Adviser Clark Howard said while Truist may not be on the hook for the money, its employees are responsible for monitoring transactions such as this and flagging fraud before it happens.
“Banks are semi-public institutions. They are subsidized by the taxpayers and they have enhanced responsibilities to the customers and the public,” said Howard. “You alert your parents or grandparents that this kind of dirty dealing is going on and to call you before they engage in any activity that involves access to their account, their computer or their money.”
Roswell police told Petchenik they are investigating the fraud and have other similar attempts, but because the suspects are likely overseas, tracking them down won’t be easy.
“Just be very careful about a company contacting you via phone, even e-mail,” said Officer Sean Thompson. “We’ve had a few of these cases pop up. Really this year is the first year I’ve heard of it where they actually contact somebody and they remote in to their computer.”
Head wants others to be careful.
“This was a very sophisticated scam that I would want to warn other people that something that appeared to be very legitimate down to the logos on the screen,” he said.