Westchester County woman says she fell victim to bank scam experts call ‘account takeovers’

ARDSLEY, NY — A Westchester County woman says she lost more than $30,000 to a sophisticated banking scam.

Since the summer, she says she’s been through the agonizing task of trying to get the money back. Experts told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner on Tuesday that scams are called “account takeovers” and that in recent months incidents have increased.

As the daughter of a retired NYPD police officer who investigated the fraud, Ardsley resident Denise Apostle says she was well aware of the warning signs of suspicious activity.

“I never thought something like this would happen to me. My mother worked for Citibank for 27 years,” she said.

So when Apostle used her Citibank account to pay bills online in July, she thought nothing of the message she received on what she thought was the bank’s website.

“He said your account has been compromised and to call that number so I thought I was calling Citibank,” she said. “He had the same lingo when I usually talk to someone at Citibank, and he sent me Citi codes.”

The text messages she received on July 6 with a Citi ID code appeared nearly identical to previous text messages the real Citibank had sent her.

He was told to change his password.

The next day, she received a voicemail from a number in Texas that turned out to be Citibank’s fraud department. Although she missed the call, she says that 20 minutes later, all the savings she had for her daughters’ college education and house bills were gone.

“Three savings accounts were zeroed out and put in my check and $35,000 was transferred to Hong Kong Toys LTD. What the branch manager told me was that if they don’t hadn’t heard back from me, it should have been put on hold,” Apostle said.

But Citibank is denying his request to replenish his account because “…the reported fraud was caused by providing customer account information or authorization for transactions that were determined to be a scam.”

Apostle is on its third appeal and a Citibank spokesperson said the bank is looking into the matter.

A nonprofit that educates people about financial fraud told Rozner that these types of scams have increased more than 100% in the past few months.

“Fraudsters are pretty savvy. They can make it look like it’s coming from your financial institution, when it’s not,” said Mark Solomon, vice president of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators. “Any type of communication with your financial institution must be initiated by you.”

He said if you’re ever unsure, hang up and call the institution.

It is also important to have different passwords for different accounts.

Apostle said Citibank encouraged her to get an interest-free credit card while investigating her case, and she said she now relies on it to pay her bills.

For more tips on how to avoid scams like this, please click here and here.

About Wanda Reilly

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