How to protect against ransomware: Thieves steal thousands of dollars from couple’s bank accounts with online banking app Zelle

HENDERSONVILLE, NC — Thousands of dollars have disappeared from the checking account of a western North Carolina couple, and it could happen to you.

“They’re slick, they know what they’re doing, and they’re targeting people like us, really,” said Stephen Savage of Hendersonville.

The video in the player above is from a previous report.

The target – the mountain couple’s bank account, and all they could do was watch helplessly. And $2,800 disappeared instantly, News 13 reported.

News 13 has the couple’s warning to others, tips for protecting your accounts, and the only tool that reveals if your accounts are compromised.

SEE ALSO | California woman loses over $18,000 from ‘Zelle’ after scammers text her, call her pretending to be a bank

“We could have been completely, there are no funds left in our account,” Savage said, sitting at his Henderson County kitchen table, speaking with News 13 after he and his wife’s bank account were targeted. by thieves.

Stephen and Tessa Savage consider themselves computer scientists.

“I would always verify a web address before clicking on a link,” he said.

Thus, a threat to their personal computer was a punch.

“He was like, ‘Ha ha, you’re a victim of ransomware. It said if you pay $900 we will unlock all your files. I found a suspicious folder or file on the computer. I deleted it, then at that moment I tried to fall asleep. And I thought about it all night long,” Stephen Savage said.

Around 9 p.m., a disconcerting text message to Stephen Savage’s phone didn’t help.

“That said, the funds were transferred successfully. It was from TD Bank and Zelle,” he said.

The Savages do not have Zelle accounts or mobile banking. The next morning, the prank played out again.

“My phone was not active. It was completely dead,” Stephen Savage said.

He had to borrow a colleague’s phone to call Tessa, urging her to check their bank accounts.

“I saw that funds were being transferred, that we hadn’t moved from our savings to our checks. And, then, I said, ‘Stephen, we have to go,'” Tessa said, and the two were on their way to the TD Bank.

Before reaching TD Bank, $1,800 was transferred from the Savage’s savings, plus $1,000 from their checking, a total of $2,800 had disappeared from their accounts through Zelle.

“I said, ‘How can you do that with a Zelle?’ And they say, “Well, it’s just done. Someone hits the thing and then, boom, it’s gone, it’s gone,” Tessa Savage said.

Driving and smshing fraud are growing cybersecurity threats.

“Yeah, this could be a particularly sophisticated attack. If this individual was driving by most likely, they clicked on an email months and months and months ago. Sometimes these nefarious actors will stay in your systems for six, eight, nine months before they act,” said Adam Bricker, executive director of the Carolina Cyber ​​Center at Montreat College.

Bricker explained how a smshing attack works.

RELATED | Bank Account Fraud, Hacking Loses Customers Hundreds of Dollars

“They get a text message on their phone. It looks legit and it says it’s from your bank. And, by the way, it’s not a Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Truist. It’s not that bank. Anyone can spoof that,” Bricker says.

All it takes is an email or phone number. Zelle, created by major banks, is a fast money transfer.

“Let’s say you don’t have a mobile banking app. Let’s say you don’t use your phone for mobile banking. Your account is still largely tied to a Zelle capacity in very many cases over 5,000” , explained Bricker.

So what is the first step to take if your account is compromised?

Steps you can take to protect yourself “Don’t engage, don’t respond at all. But then think to yourself, what information could they already have about me,” Bricker said.

What are some fair best practices that people should keep in mind?

“Three things. First, we strongly recommend using a password manager app like 1Password or LastPass because you can configure it to have long and complex passwords,” Bricker said.

Second, Bricker encouraged everyone to set up multi-factor authentication to log in to accounts.

“The third thing, with all these accounts, is setting up notification, where if there’s a change, you’re notified,” Bricker said.

The tool notifying you where your information is compromised Bricker also recommends the website, “Have I been pwned?”

“It will show you, credit card, phone number, social security, address, username, password was compromised and from what source it was compromised,” Bricker said.

This gives you time to take action and make changes to accounts that might be compromised.

SEE ALSO | Scams targeting Zelle app users are increasing as criminals become more creative; how to avoid losing thousands

As for the Indians, they said the bank cannot or will not give them information on how the money was transferred.

Despite efforts to prove transfer errors and show the Savages had no access to their cellphones, the refund request citing Regulation E, a federal law protecting electronic funds transfers, was twice denied by TD Bank. Once he claimed there was no mistake. And once he said transfers were allowed.

“I think it’s shameful how the banking industry treats consumers, treats seniors in this country, and I think we need to hold them accountable,” Tessa Savage said.

Shouldn’t the attack on the Savages be covered by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act or Regulation E?

“Regulation E requires banks to reimburse you for fraud, even if it was induced and you acted. You were induced, tricked, tricked into doing the cellular transaction, they should cover you for that,” Bricker said. .

News 13 asked why TD Bank is not complying with the Electronic Funds Transfer Act or Regulation E.

The response News 13 received from TD Bank ultimately differed from the one the Savages received.

“At TD, we take fraud very seriously. We investigate fraud complaints thoroughly to determine the facts and take appropriate action. Due to privacy concerns, we cannot discuss account activity. of retail customers positive resolution for the customer in this case,” TD Bank told News 13.

Remember, reimbursement from the Indians had been refused twice. The day after News 13 received a response from TD Bank, the Savages were contacted by TD Bank, informing them that the bank was refunding the full $2,800. The Savages have since closed their accounts.

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