DennisBeaverJune 26, 2018 • By Dennis Beaver

For anyone who does online banking–especially from a cell phone–then today’s story has relevant, important information. Now, imagine logging in to see if a check deposited earlier that day had cleared, only to discover that your checking and savings accounts have been hacked, leaving zero balances.

Thousands of dollars are missing, but you are adequately cool-headed to do what Kingsburg reader Dillon Nussbaum was advised in early March by his Chase Bank branch manager upon discovering $21,500 suddenly gone:

“Come right over and file an affidavit of unauthorized signature for Transaction.” And that’s exactly what Nussbaum did, detailing how on March 6th funds from savings were moved into his checking account, then a wire was sent to a jewelry store in Florida to purchase a $21,500 watch sent to an address in Las Vegas.

The Chase Fraud Division shows itself incompetent

Federal law states that if your bank account is compromised, you will get all of your money back if you notify the financial institution within 60 days after the fraudulent transaction appears on your bank statement.

If you were a Chase customer, it would be reasonable to expect a thorough, rapid investigation and prompt refund, right? Well, that’s not what happened, as their Fraud Department failed completely to do a proper investigation. Some of the most arrogant, impolite and, frankly, nasty people we’ve ever spoken with in banking blamed our reader, claiming in a March 26, letter that he, “benefitted from the funds.”

They also claimed the transactions were accomplished from his cell phone, “Complete nonsense,” we would later learn from Verizon.

When the people working in a bank’s Fraud Department are told they are on the line with their customer and a syndicated newspaper legal affairs columnist, most employees with half a brain would get real serious, real fast. But it became clear that when brains were handed out, these incompetents weren’t just standing behind the door, they weren’t even in the building.

Las Vegas insurance agent raises suspicions

The $21,500 Chase wire was sent to World of Luxury, located in North Miami Beach, Florida. They sent us all their emails from–now get this–Dillon Nussbaum at 7396 Laramie Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada. Only the real Dillon Nussbaum had no connection to Las Vegas or Laramie Avenue, which is a rental owned by Gary Lahr, who lives Winchester, Tennessee.

His tenant is Donald Havens, regional sales manager for American Senior Benefits, which is a senior-focused life insurance company. We left several messages for Havens–at home and at his office-informing him that on March 13 at 9 a.m., at his address, someone claiming to be Dillon Nussbaum signed for a $21,500 watch. Does he know anything about this? Can he help us? Please call back.”

We never got a return call, which raised red flags, but Lahr explained, “Havens is like that – not good about returning phone calls unless it is something that he wants.”

Enter two angels – and they don’t work in the Chase Fraud Department

We emailed Heido Flato, Verizon’s media contact for the Western United States, and asked for technical help proving that Nussbaum’s cellphone was not used to send the wire. Within days we had that information, as well as the reason it would be impossible for his phone to have been hacked: “Cell phone IP addresses change constantly.”

We also reached out to Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot, a media contact in the Chase Executive Office. “Will you please have someone look at this account’s history? Who has been accessing it? Your Fraud Department obviously failed to do this.”

Additionally, logs were given Chase proving (1) Nussbaum was not on the cell at the time the wire was sent, and (2) Proof that in the days before the theft, four unknown computers accessed the account–“casing it”- and ceased that access the day the funds were stolen.

On May 17, Chase put the money back in his account! It was a great victory.

We told him to close the account, go to a different bank, and stay away from online banking for a while. He’s followed our advice.

Some final thoughts

When first working on this story, it was not our intention to “bash” Chase. We repeatedly asked to speak with someone who could explain what happened so that we could do an educational article but have been refused that access.

We believe they need to be investigated by the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Trade Commission, and SEC. Something is very wrong at Chase. How many others have been harmed this way and treated like thieves?

Finally, a great big THANKS to Heido Flato of Verizon and Darcy Donahoe-Wilmont, at JP Morgan-Chase.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.