Bank scam victims get money back as investigators get new leads


Victims who lost thousands in a highly sophisticated phishing scam thought they would never get that money back.

But after 7News aired a story that showed the scheme was specifically targeting members of Founder’s Federal Credit Union, and that the scammers already head very private banking information, Founders decided to refund victims the stolen funds.

You can’t blame Amy Culletto and Ashleigh Miller, for finding it hard to trust these days.

When Culletto got the call yesterday that her money would be reimbursed she said “I was surprised, shocked, I couldn’t believe it. Honestly part of me thought it was a scam again.”

Two weeks ago, both members of Founders Federal Credit Union fell victim to a scam that drained their bank accounts, $2055.12 for Culletto and $5402.71 for Miller.

“About a week ago I had just decided that I would never see that money again,” said Miller.

“Yeah, I was done, I redid all my bills and redid my budget and everything and just assumed it was gone,” said Culletto.

When 7News reported on the scam last week, Founders had sent them this denial letter that said “since your account information was provided to the individual by you, FFCU is not liable.”

But the victims say it was precisely because the scam callers who claimed to be with Founders already knew so much private banking information that they were tricked into giving up a two step veryification code.

“They had my full card number they had my full pin number they had the expiration date, everything,” Miller had told us last Friday.

And after our story aired another Founder’s member contacted us out of Union with the very same story. He lost $870.

Founders maintains, there is no breach, and will not say exactly how many members got the scam call or fell victim.

But in a statement to 7News Thursday said:

“While it is our policy to not return funds to members when they have shared sensitive personal information to aid in fraudulent activity, we do realize this was a complex scam which created a financial hardship for these members. Our internal investigations revealed no personal information was compromised by Founders Federal Credit Union and the credit union was not at any point breached. We, however, empathize with these members and understand their vulnerability to this highly complicated and intellectual criminal activity and felt the right thing to do, in this case, was to refund their stolen funds.”

“They said they were returning everything, and I was like ah!,” said Culletto with a smile.

Meanwhile, Forest Acres Police now have images of a suspect who investigators believe made debit cards with the stolen information and used them at two Richland County sites.

“It’s a much larger scheme and it’s obviously very well organized and sophisticated to say the least so they put a lot of time and effort just to try to steal,” said Forest Acres Police Cheif Gene Sealy.

Sealy said the State Law Enforcement Division is also working on the investigation.

“I’m so grateful that that money is back in there” said Culletto.

“And my birthday is actually next weekend so I’m looking forward to actually enjoying my birthday,” said Miller.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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