Conned by Scam Artist

(WSVN) - By their very nature, con artists are incredibly convincing. Talking you into doing things you would never do. It happened to one woman who got taken for thousands, and now, she’s turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to get her money back.

If you are going to be a collector, you might as well be a great collector.

Sheila German, taken by scam artist: These are my favorite things in the world. They’re cats, and they’re very special.”

Sheila collects cat figurines. Each beautiful, each distinct, and she also has cat pictures, cat clocks and cat pillows.

Patrick Fraser: “And when you talk about them, you smile.”

Sheila German: “They make me happy.”

In a way, Sheila is like a cat, very cautious, very careful.

Sheila German: “I know when you get phone calls, and they’re asking for money, or they are asking for information of any kind — hang up.”

Then, she got a call from a woman claiming to be from her bank.

Sheila German: “I’m with Wells Fargo, and we noticed that your debit card has been compromised.”

The woman kept her on the phone for over an hour and even convinced Sheila to confirm her debit card PIN numbers.

Sheila German: “She sounded like a professional banker.”

The woman then told Sheila police had caught the crook, and everything was going to be fine.

Sheila German: “She said, ‘I’m going to send someone from the bank, and she is going to pick up your two debit cards. Then, she is going to bring two new ones out to you.”

The woman came, took Sheila’s cards and said she would be right back with the replacement cards. After two and a half hours passed, Sheila realized what had happened.

Sheila German: “I told Jack. I said, ‘I think we’ve been scammed,’ and then, we went to the bank.”

In that short time, the scammer had whipped through Sheila and her husband’s accounts.

Sheila German: “Then they went to an ATM — $2,000. They went to Publix and took out $1,202.67. A telephone transfer for $3,000. How do they do that?”

The total amount? Stunning.

Sheila German: “About $23,000. My heart sunk.”

The police were called, the bank investigated, and then, gave Sheila their decision.

Sheila German: “Because I handed that lady the two cards, they’re not going to help me.”

Sheila was upset with herself.

Sheila German: “How stupid am I? How can I be this dumb? Gullible?”

Well Howard, if a scammer convinces you to give them your debit card and PIN number, when they rip you off, are you out of luck?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Banks may say yes, but in my opinion, federal law says you can get your money back. Here is why. It’s what’s called the EFTA, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, and it says if you give up your card because they take it from you or trick you into giving it to them, the law protects the consumer, and they are entitled to get that money back, provided, of course, you report it within a certain time frame, which Sheila did.”

Sheila says Wells Fargo told her they were not returning her money, but now, she has a chance.

A spokesperson wrote, “We are looking further into this matter. We cannot comment on our customers’ or specific bank transactions due to customer privacy and confidentiality. Wells Fargo representatives will never ask for a customer’s PIN, and will not visit customers at their homes to request their debit cards.”

Wells Fargo then returned $6,000 of Sheila’s money, and while we wait to see if she gets the rest of the money, she has some free advice.

Sheila German: “Don’t do what I did. Be smart and be aware.”

And Wells Fargo had some tips for people to avoid getting taken by scammers. That information is down below.

You might want to read it because those con artists are constantly changing their scams, and they are very good at tricking people.

A problem deposited with you? Banking on getting some help? Let us come pick it up to help you cash in. We know a trick or two ’cause we have met a crook or two.

Information from Wells Fargo to avoid being scammed: 

Wells Fargo is committed to helping customers protect their accounts and prevent fraud. We offer some tips to help protect against fraud:

  • Don’t give your bank account information to someone if you are unable to confirm the request is legitimate.
  • Be suspicious if someone requests your account information.
  • Be careful what you disclose.
  • Be wary of suspicious offers or requests for personal or financial information via e-mail, text message, phone, or website.
  • If you’re leery about a request for your information, verify that the request is legitimate by calling the number on the company’s website or billing statement.
  • If you are uncomfortable with a request received via phone call or text that you didn’t initiate, don’t respond and hang up immediately.
  • Then, contact the company using legitimate sources such as a phone number on the company’s website.
  • If the caller claims to be from Wells Fargo, call 1-866-867-5568 to verify the authenticity of the request.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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