Local business owner shares how she was scammed out of nearly $20,000

Linda Harvell’s bank admits it made an error in stopping the transfer from her account. She wasn’t reimbursed the money until KBTX got involved.
Published: Aug. 28, 2022 at 11:07 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - A College Station small business owner says she was scammed out of nearly $20,000 and was getting nowhere with her bank until she reached out to KBTX.

Now she’s sharing her experience in hopes of preventing it from it happening to someone else.

“It was on Monday, March 7th. I remember it was on a Monday and I opened up my computer at 8:30 a.m. and I saw the e-mail,” said Linda Harvell, owner and operator of Texas Trading Post, an online shop that sells Texas-themed merchandise.

“It was an email from Best Buy’s Geek Squad saying they had renewed my annual subscription for $400.00 and I had already decided I wasn’t going to renew that because I had not used them in several years,” said Harvell.

So, she called the number in the e-mail and this is where the trouble begins. She was told by a representative named Calvin that he would need access to her computer in order to receive the refund.

Thinking it was legit, she said okay.

“All of a sudden the screen starts going 90 miles an hour, black black, black. All these different levels and then it came on and here’s my bank statement which I did not give him permission. I did not but because I had my password automatically saved on my Wells Fargo account, he was able to go in, and right in there I saw $19,500 being transferred out of my account and I said Calvin what have you done?” Harvell said.

Calvin claimed the transfer was a mistake and asked her to be patient while he corrected it but after several hours passed, Harvell began to realize she may have been scammed so she called her bank’s fraud line, and that’s where the challenges began with Wells Fargo.

“I waited for an hour and a young lady came on and she said, I would need to do a voice verification. I have no idea what that means. What is voice verification? So, she said she couldn’t help me unless I had voice verification. I asked to speak with someone else and this went on for quite a while. I waited on the phone for another hour and went through the whole story again and this agent said I needed to go to the local branch. Well, by this time it was 5 p.m. and the local branch was closed,” said Harvell.

The next morning, Harvell went to the Wells Fargo bank on Rock Prairie Road and she said the local staff was very helpful.

“Don Dickinson, who was an amazing advocate for this whole process, I explained to him what happened. He went in and looked at my account, and the wire transfer was still showing as pending. He immediately called the Wells Fargo Corporate Fraud Division and said to put a stop to the pending transfer and they said they would, but later in the day I checked my checking account and showed that the transfer had been made,” said Harvell.

Harvell showed KBTX e-mails from Wells Fargo that showed the company admitting the wire transfer was “ultimately processed in error” on their end, but because Harvell had allowed scammers access to her computer the company said she would be responsible for the money loss. She appealed the decision and each time she did she would receive an e-mail in return saying her case was in review. This went on for five months, and each time Harvell said she would speak to a different bank representative who was reading notes about her case that lacked details about what happened.

“I think I had four different claim numbers at one point,” she said.

KBTX’s Rusty Surette reached out to Wells Fargo to inquire about the case and ask about the company’s policy in reimbursing customers who had fallen victim to scams.

Within days of us reaching out, Harvell had the $19,500 reimbursed back into her checking account.

Ty Morrison, Assistant Vice President and Lead Communications Specialist for Wells Fargo sent KBTX the following statement: “When a customer notifies us of an issue, we conduct a thorough investigation. We regret the inconvenience and stress our customer encountered, and apologize for the experience she had. We are pleased that this issue has been resolved for our customer.”

Harvell knows where she messed up and wanted to share her experience to warn others. She says she learned a valuable lesson but was disappointed in the way her longtime bank had treated her case.

I told them that once this was all over, I’d be looking for a new place for my mortgage and my business and bank account,” said Harvell.

Wells Fargo sent us additional tips and advice on how to avoid being scammed:

“It’s important for everyone to be vigilant and aware of common scams to avoid falling victim. Be wary of unexpected calls, texts, social media posts, or emails from scammers impersonating tech support companies, banks, and government agencies. Don’t be afraid to end communication with the person who contacted you and take time to research.”

· Scams are an industry-wide concern, and we never want to see anyone become a victim.

· We are actively working to raise awareness of common scams to help prevent these heartbreaking incidents.

· If you send money to a scammer, you may not be able to get it back. Wire transfers are an immediate form of payment that deposits money directly into another person’s account and are typically irreversible, even if fraud is involved.

· In the case of imposter scams, a scammer may impersonate a company representative or a government official and ask the customer to complete a series of steps to authorize an online wire transfer.

· Don’t send money or give your account information to anyone you don’t know or a company you can’t verify as legitimate.

· Don’t allow anyone else to use your device and make sure you have extra layers of security added to your banking and payment apps.

· Wells Fargo has various resources, practices, and strategies in place to help protect our customers and their accounts. To send an online wire transfer there are multiple authentication steps, required before the customer can authorize, and then execute the transaction that sends the money to the scammer.

· While we’re seeing success with enhancements we’ve put in place this year to prevent common scams from occurring, customer education is still essential to prevent them.

· Our work to prevent scams is a priority and we’re increasing our education efforts through alerts in online banking sessions, customer communications, and our Online Security Center