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

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) – A College Station small business owner says she was scammed out of nearly $20,000 and was not moving anywhere with her bank until she contacts KBTX.

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

“It was Monday, March 7. I remember it was a Monday and I turned on my computer at 8:30 a.m. and saw the email,” said Linda Harvell, owner and operator of Texas trading postan online store 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 didn’t have them used for several years,” said Harvell.

So she called the number in the email and that’s where the trouble begins. A representative named Calvin told him that he would need to access his computer 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 happened and here’s my bank statement which I didn’t give him the I didn’t, but because my password was automatically saved to my Wells Fargo account, he was able to get in, and right there I saw $19,500 being transferred from my account and I I said Calvin, what have you done?” said Harvel.

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

“I waited for an hour and a young woman came and she said, I should 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 have voice verification I asked to speak to someone else and it went on for quite a while I waited on the phone for a hour more and I went through the whole story again and this agent told me I had to go to the local branch. Well, by then it was 5 p.m. and the local branch was closed”, Harvey said.

The next morning, Harvell drove to Wells Fargo Bank on Rock Prairie Road and said the local staff were very helpful.

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

Harvell showed KBTX emails from Wells Fargo which showed the company admitting the wire transfer was “ultimately processed in error” on their end, but because Harvell had allowed the crooks access to his computer, the company said stated that she would be responsible for the loss of money. She appealed the decision and each time she did, she received an email back saying her case was under review. It lasted five months, and each time Harvell said she would speak to another bank representative who was reading notes on 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 contacted Wells Fargo to inquire about the matter and to inquire about the company’s policy on refunding scammed customers.

A few days after we contacted Harvell had the $19,500 refunded to his checking account.

Ty Morrison, Assistant Vice President and Senior Communications Specialist for Wells Fargo sent KBTX the following statement: “When a customer reports a problem to us, we conduct a thorough investigation. We regret the inconvenience and stress experienced by our client and apologize for her experience. We are delighted that this issue has been resolved for our client.

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 with the way her longtime bank handled her case.

I told them that once it was all over I would look for a new place for my mortgage, my business and my bank account,” Harvell said.

Wells Fargo sent us some 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 to them. Beware of unexpected calls, texts, social media posts or emails from scammers posing as tech support companies, banks and government agencies. Don’t be afraid to end communication with the person who contacted you and take the time to do some research.

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

· We actively work 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 generally irreversible, even in cases of fraud.

· In the case of scams by imposters, a scammer may pose as a company representative or government official and ask the customer to follow a series of steps to authorize an online bank transfer.

· Don’t send money or give your account information to someone you don’t know or to a company whose legitimacy you can’t verify.

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

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

· While we’re seeing success with the improvements we’ve put in place this year to prevent common scams from happening, customer education is still key to preventing them.

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