I’ve Just Been Hacked

By Karen

Hackers were assaulting my checking account from Sunday, August 28, to Friday, September 2, and it’s taken me this long to recover. I’ll tell you what happened as a cautionary tale.

Two Sundays ago, my bank emailed me a Security Alert. In part, it read [verbatim]:

On 8/28/2022 12:46 AM, there was the forgot password process was attempted for your login ID… If you suspect fraudulent activity, please contact us… Please do not reply to this message.

The bad grammar and absence of contact info looked like spam. I knew my little community bank doesn’t do weekends, so I was helpless until Monday.

But that afternoon at 4:50 p.m., a quick succession of more Security Alerts arrived about: 1) forgot password, 2) change to secure access code contact information, 3) added a Tempia Otey (??!!) to account, 4) a process was started to add an external contact.

At 5 p.m., my landline rang. Caller ID showed my bank and its local number, so I answered. Mistake ONE.

It was “Jacob” from the “Fraud Department,” following up since they hadn’t heard from me (how?).

Jacob was a criminal newbie with Swiss-cheese story he kept having to “check with his supervisor,” which kept dropping the call. Once, he called back from 843-474-1626 in Beaufort, SC, stammering that that line was “more secure” than the bank’s. (If this doxes you, Jacob, tough. The bank and the FCC have this number now, too.)

MAJOR POINT: You know two-factor authentication, where they phone or text a code number to you so you can access a website or account? To “verify” me, Jacob somehow sent one of those to my landline, and it actually came from my bank. I’m still kicking myself for telling him what it was, but I hadn’t yet realized he was a hacker. Mistake TWO.

Jacob’s real mission was to “verify” (i.e., steal) my debit card information.

When I refused to tell all (I did give some, like a dummy) Mistake THREE, Jacob transferred me to his “supervisor” Jessica. She’d only say, “We need your debit card number,” so I hung up on her.

The next day, Monday at 7 a.m., this Security Alert arrived…

On 8/29/2022 6:54 AM there was your security alert preferences were changed.

I called the bank as soon as it opened and we found the bogus Tempia Otey online withdrawal and another one. They totaled $500 and luckily had been blocked by Zelle, a third-party money transfer thing my bank has. So, I changed my password and drove to the bank to close my debit card.

At 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, the hacker phoned again, spoofing the bank on Caller ID, calling himself “Jonathan.” I answered because the bank had promised to call back about the Zelle situation. Once again, not knowing it wasn’t the bank, he sent an authentication code to my cellphone this time (so he had both my phone numbers), and I told him the code. Mistake FOUR.

I think this call sealed my fate.

As soon as I realized it was Jacob again, I hung up. A few minutes later the Security Alert emails started rolling in…

On 8/29/2022 3:11 PM, there was an invalid password for your login ID was submitted.

…forgot password process was attempted…

…security alert preferences were changed…

Since Zelle had blocked suspicious activity, bank customer service was on the case, and I’d notified my branch there was a problem in person, I thought they all had my back and we were done. Mistake FIVE.

Beginning Tuesday, the hackers siphoned daily increasingly large amounts from my checking account into another account they’d opened in my name somewhere until I was out $14,000, which I’d set aside for some major bills.

I discovered these thefts Friday, September 2, after I was locked out of my online account trying to get my monthly checking statement.

Hair ablaze, I dashed back to the bank to close the checking account and file a fraud report. (When they printed my statement, the daily theft withdrawals were screamingly obvious.)

The bank said it might take “months” to research and recover my “disputed” $14K. And they said it was now in MasterCard’s hands. WTF? Who ever said anything about MasterCard? The debit card was closed BEFORE the withdrawals started.

This crime began within days of the bank launching a new app. I think the app has security issues a cruise ship could sail through. The bank employee who helped me had been getting the same Security Alerts on HER account and blowing them off. And she said other customers had been making similar reports (presumably also being blown off).

With a new checking account, all my online bill-paying information, automatic drafts, the direct deposit arrangements with clients got obliterated. I’ve spent most of this week piecing my finances back together like a jigsaw puzzle.

BUT THERE’S A HAPPY ENDING: Instead of months, the disputed $14K was restored to me within 24 hours — but it was deposited in the now-closed account. ANOTHER trip to the bank got the funds over to the new account. I’m a familiar (if masked) face at the bank now.

LESSONS LEARNED: I can’t trust my bank. Their “security” is nothing but useless ungrammatical emails. They’re unable to detect a multi-day theft in progress. And if I hadn’t been proactive, my $14K would STILL be sitting in a closed account.

I’ll take your questions now.

19 Responses to I’ve Just Been Hacked

  1. I really didn’t want to “like” this. Wow. Just wow! My husband almost got scammed when he got an email from “Microsoft” saying that his computer was hacked. They wanted him to call and he let them in his computer. When I found out, I was screaming, “it’s a scam” but he had to have this computer checked out. I am glad you got your money back so quickly. Sometimes these things don’t end as well as this did (I know it didn’t feel like a good ending at the time).

  2. catsworking says:

    Kate, OMG, that “just let us take control of your computer and ‘fix’ everything,” is REALLY DANGEROUS! They get all your passwords, contacts, etc.

    Even though all is well with me now (just one more loose end left, but I can’t tie it until I get my new checks), I keep going through this in my head trying to figure out how I could have stopped them. I think it was the authentication codes. They must have hacked their way into a certain point because of the information they showed they had, then just needed the codes to get all the way in. And they did so on Monday, because that’s when they stopped calling and started withdrawing.

    My bank should be in full-scale alarm mode that a hacker is able to trigger their system to send those codes. But they didn’t seem to care.

    After I posted this, I got an email from some guy saying he had a Microsoft SharePoint document for me. “Just click this link.”

    It’s a scam. I think now that my info is out there as a successful target, I’m going to be bombarded for a while.

    I got my money back, but the scammers also have it, so it’s up to the bank (and MasterCard?) to go after the scammers. I hope they’re caught.

  3. Pat Murray says:

    Holy shit, Karen! I’m so glad you got your money back! Here’s hoping you’ll be able to get a secure bank account.

  4. Horrible. I always want to tell the fraudsters that they need to go look for a real, honest job instead of stealing from others.

  5. catsworking says:

    Pat, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask, “Why the HELL did you stay with this bank?” The short answer is, they had my money.

    My initial reaction was, “WTF is WRONG with you people? You’re being HACKED and you don’t seem to CARE! I’m outta here!” but I needed to refrain from going “full Karen” until they fixed all the problems.

    Once I get everything back to normal, I’ll have the luxury of time to find a new bank. Security will be at the top of my wish list.

  6. catsworking says:

    Brandon, I have fantasies of what I would do to that little punk (Jacob/Jonathan) and bitch (Jessica) I spoke to, and they involve lots of pain and blood. But I’d settle for long prison sentences.

    Their scam combines technology, which they excel at, with personal contact, which they stink at. I didn’t go into detail in the post, but Jacob waved lots of red flags I actually questioned, but gave him the benefit of the doubt while I thought he was the bank because he said he was “only three months on the job.”

    When he called the next day as Jonathan and I recognized his voice, I said, “You don’t sound like a bank employee.” He was taken aback a moment, then said with snark, “Well, I’m my own person. What’s a bank employee supposed to sound like?”

    That exactly NOT how a real employee would talk to a customer. Then I hung up on him. (But he got the last laugh because that’s when he proceeded to drain my account.)

    I’m betting they get themselves nailed by revealing something that can be traced back to them, like the South Carolina phone number that slipped through.

  7. Pat Murray says:

    Hope that’s soon!

  8. Bonnie C. says:

    Wow!! I do feel for you, but by now you do realize that you contributed to this several times in a MAJOR fashion. For starters, you NEVER give ANY information to anyone over the phone – regardless of the supposed reason – & legitimate banks won’t ask for it or give you any numbers to call. You have to contact them back, which thus avoids you calling any bogus numbers – you have to look up & phone your bank yourself. And though many banks don’t “do” weekends, a lot of them DO have recordings of numbers to call in the event of fraud.

    I don’t know what bank you use, but if yours doesn’t have/do any of the above, I’d be switching banks pronto.

  9. catsworking says:

    Bonnie, believe me, I’ve been kicking myself for my role in this, and I agree with everything you say. Last night the phone rang, and I wasn’t sure I recognized the number so I didn’t pick up, but it was a friend who had read this blog and was calling to commiserate. I’m taking no chances.

    I’m always so careful, but this situation was an epic fail and I’ve paid dearly in stress and inconvenience.

    I found some additional contact numbers in the bank’s new app, but none of them are 24/7.

    I’ve never had any institution give me a number to call back to verify their identity. Even so, hackers would give you their hacker number to call back, so what would that accomplish?

    I’ve been with this bank for 11 years, but yes, it is too small and now I find out totally lax on security.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve always been leery about giving access to my bank account, but several bills do require a draft. ALL my other bills go to a credit card, which I then pay off each month in one swoop. Credit cards are much more efficient when it comes to fraud, having 24/7 lines where you can put something fishy in dispute immediately or shut the card down altogether.

  10. Bonnie C. says:

    “I’ve never had any institution give me a number to call back to verify their identity. Even so, hackers would give you their hacker number to call back, so what would that accomplish?”

    You misread – I said that NO legit institution would give you a phone number to call back. They would tell you to contact them, & it would be up to YOU to use & find their legit contact number or visit the branch, etc., etc. They NEVER give out a number for the exact reason you say – it wouldn’t accomplish anything re: protection.

    And don’t automatically discount small local banks. I’ve been using one for more than 30 years now & they’ve provided excellent protection so far.

    And what bills insist on you using a bank draft or connection to your bank account these days??? Geesh – all are bills are done via credit card & the credit cards do an excellent job of keeping us protected from fraud.

  11. catsworking says:

    Oh, hahaha! You’re right, Bonnie. I misunderstood you. It’s my water bill and my Cigna Medicare supplemental insurance that are drafted.

  12. Bonnie C. says:

    That’s odd. We have Cigna Medicare supplemental insurance & we pay it via credit card as we do with all our health insurance. You should be able to as well. And your water bill is WAY behind the times if they insist on accessing your bank account for bill payment. I’d double-check on them to be sure that’s still the case. Especially in Virginia – you should be able to pay everything via credit card if you want to. I’d definitely double-check these things. Sounds screwy to me.

  13. catsworking says:

    Shoot, that was a premature send. Cigna has some other method, but their website has been problematic and I couldn’t get to the screen of the other method. In fact, my BitDefender software said it was “dangerous” and tech blah-blah and wouldn’t open it.

    I also had to pay quarterly taxes on my business, which I usually do by check, which now a week after ordering them I still don’t have (thank you, Louis DeJoy, probably). I was able to pay the feds by credit card (incurring a 1.87% fee, which wasn’t nothing). But the state taxes, no dice. I needed to set up an online account with the state, which required that two-factor authentication code. But the phone number on file was my landline, and when they sent the code to that, it was a dial tone.

    I spent a long while trying to speak to a human at either the county or state to give them my cell number, but their automated answering kept bouncing me back and forth between them and I got nowhere. SO… I had to get a cashier’s check to mail the state taxes and fingers crossed it gets there in time.

    These are the myriad issues I’ve been dealing with all week. There’s much more.

    But back to the “call us” phone number thing. For the first time in 11 years, I have other contact numbers for the bank to call if I ever get another “Security Alert” email listing none. Those numbers should have been on their website all along, but they just showed up in the new app.

    Back in 2011 I left SunTrust Bank (which was a major player here) for this rinky local bank because SunTrust was imposing fees just for driving by a branch. Since the beginning, there have been issues with the little bank — most recently they closed the branch I always used, making them a special trip to visit in person — but I’d been coping.

    In today’s mail, September 9, came a letter from the bank dated September 2, saying they had resolved my “dispute” and given the money back. (Sept. 2 was the same day I reported the theft.)

    Gee, thanks a lot, bank, for the super-quick notification. A WEEK. Again, probably Louis DeJoy keeping the mail slow. That letter came through MY post office (which is within a mile of the freaking bank), so it’s not like there was any travel involved.

  14. Bonnie C. says:

    That’s really odd about Cigna. We’ve had their supplemental insurance for two years now, & it’s been automatically deducted from our designated credit card each month without any problems whatsoever.

    It sounds like maybe you might need to sit down with someone to sort all of this out for you. It really shouldn’t be this difficult to safely make automatic payments.

  15. catsworking says:

    Bonnie, I’ve had Cigna for a few years now and paying by credit card has never been an option or I would have done that from the beginning. Maybe it varies by state what’s allowed.

    I was also told by Cigna that they had to snail-mail me a form to change the checking account number for the draft (which a week later hasn’t arrived), but I called back and got someone else on the phone who told me I should be able to do it online.

    When I tried to do it on my main computer, my security software refused to allow me to go to that particular page, saying there was something wrong with it and it was unsafe. I wasn’t going to push it, since it was my new checking account.

    So, I tried getting in through my phone, that worked, and I made the change.

    Cigna has been problematic since Day One. I remember once I tried to use their “feature” of calling a nurse (I forget what my situation was). After going through much “your call is important to us” gibberish and getting bounced around from person to person, they told me I’m ineligible to use that service. WTF.

  16. Bonnie C. says:

    Well, we’re in Virginia as you are, so I still don’t understand why you don’t have the credit-card option. Honestly – while I’ve only been with Cigna for a little over a year now, no problems yet whatsoever.

  17. catsworking says:

    Hmm… I will have to research this further with Cigna. I really would prefer credit card, and pay my drug and dental insurance by card (but not with Cigna).

    I had Cigna for a few years as an individual before I went on Medicare, and just stayed with them. I’ve had no problem with claims. But again, there was a period where I couldn’t get to my EOBs (explanations of benefits) on the website without going through some convoluted process. I’d get an email saying I had an EOB, but then when I went to the site, nothing was there. It said no claims, no EOBs.

    But I looked the other day and recent claims were showing, so maybe that glitch has been fixed.

  18. I’ve shared this story with my parents. For these kinds of phone scammers and hackers to still plague society is aggravating. Thank you for sharing your story. 💗

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