Tipline Investigation: Hackers destroy the bank accounts of a small business owner

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Our investigation into the NewsChannel Tipline is deepening into the dark world of hackers and thieves. We all deal with passwords, two-factor authentication, security issues, whatever is multi-stage, it’s infuriating. We are doing all this to stop or at least slow down the crooks. However, sometimes even that is not enough.

Michael Appley’s nightmare began last year. He was returning from a vacation in Mammoth Lakes when his son’s phone rang.

“It was Verizon, and they asked me if I had just changed my account administrator, and I told them, ‘No, I wasn’t,'” Appley said.

A few hours later, Appley arrived home.

“My friend was there at home and said he had just called me and that someone else had picked up the phone,” Appley said.

Then Appley realized something was wrong. He has not received any text messages or phone calls for some time. So he drove straight to the Verizon store in Santa Barbara.

“And they said yes, two administrators were added to my account, and they went on and changed it back to me, and then they let me know that my SIM card number had changed,” Appley said.

The SIM card identifies the phone, its mobile number, controls the security and access functions. In essence, the one who controls the SIM controls the phone and everything in it, including access to bank accounts. Appley says his next stop is Union Bank, where he had his business account. He talks to a manager.

“And he laughed and said, ‘Oh, there’s no way this is going to happen. No one is in your account. And I said, ‘just look and let me know.’ And of course, almost everything was transferred from my account.

And this was happening right before their eyes. Epley said the bank immediately froze the account and hoped it would be enough to stop the transfers. However, days later, all the money disappeared from his small business account, about $ 35,000.

“So he was transferred to Zelle, and then he was transferred to Chase and so on
was transferred to Wells Fargo, “said Appley.

Shortly afterwards, Appley also discovered that the crooks had stolen all of his 401,000 retirement savings. He filed police reports with the Santa Barbara Police Department and tried to find out how this happened. Epley said Verizon was helpful at first, and admitted that the fraudsters called the wireless carrier posing as Epley and persuaded a Verizon live agent to give them access to Epley’s account.

“And as soon as they did that, they were able to change their passwords once
they changed the passwords they could log in and do whatever they wanted, ”Appley said.

Appley believes Verizon gave the crooks the keys to his phone, allowing them to steal everything. Then he called our Tipline for help. We contacted Verizon in the hope of obtaining more information. For
for example, when hackers called Verizon in an attempt to gain access to Epley’s
did the Verizon representative ask for the password, did they use two
authentication factor or ask some secret security questions?

However, Verizon responded with a different version of events. Verizon wrote: “Ours
The fraud team found that no unauthorized users had access to this
Verizon customer account ”and there was no direct fraud related to
Epley’s account. Verizon also hints that the fraudsters may have hacked Epley’s
personal email to log in and steal everything.

Appley told us this was news to him.

“They won’t tell me anything without a summons,” Appley said.

NewsChannel also contacted Wells Fargo, Chase and Union Banks. Union Bank was the only one that wanted to help Epley by agreeing to conduct a more in-depth investigation. About two months later, Union bank agreed that Epley was a victim and offered to help. We don’t know the details, but we know that Epley is happy with the way it ended.

“Obviously, you guys did me a huge, huge favor, and I don’t know how to go.”
for that in another way, this is obviously something that could not have happened
without you, ‘said Appley.

We would like to express our gratitude to Union Bank for its help with Epley. As for Verizon, we asked if it disputes Epley’s version of events, and so far Verizon has not challenged it.

Epley also got back all his retirement money as it was insured. That means the crooks got away with almost $ 300,000.

Santa Barbara police said they were still investigating.

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