Crooks take over Sarasota man’s cell phone, use online banking app to transfer nearly $20,000

Better Call Behnken

Started with fraudulent email that appeared to be from Chase Bank

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Larry Kraus saw the email come through on his phone while at work on June 21. He thought it was Chase Bank trying to protect him from identity thieves. But it was the beginning a sophisticated financial ambush.

Busy at work, he didn’t notice the email address was not from an official Chase account. He clicked the link, likely downloading malware onto his phone. Then he answered personal information including his address and social security number.

His account “unlocked” just like the fake Chase representative said it would. Hours later, everything changed.

Kraus’ cell phone stopped working.

“I couldn’t make calls,” he said. “I couldn’t get texts. It was as if the phone was brand new and had never been set up before.”

He went to Verizon to get the phone fixed, and things got worse.

“They said, ‘By the way did you call Verizon and say that none of us employees could do anything with the phone?’ I said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘These guys are good.

That was just the beginning.

“At the same time while Verizon was trouble shooting, they made a call to Chase and stated that they authorized a wire transfer from my online banking to Bank of America in the amount of almost $20,000.” Kraus said.

The crooks attempted transfers to other accounts, too, including $25,870 to the crooks’ online trading account with Robinhood.

By then, Krause was standing in a Chase Bank branch and stopped those transactions, but his nearly $20,000 was gone.

Chase launched an investigation, but more than seven weeks later, Krause hasn’t seen a dime and no one from the bank has called him back in weeks.

Feeling helpless, he knew he’d Better Call Behnken. A Chase spokeswoman told me she would escalate this case and an executive team member will contact him directly.

“They should take a priority and return the money back as soon as possible and continue their investigation to the extent of where it came from and how it got started but not leave the individual like myself without this amount of money. It’s affecting your livelihood,” Kraus said.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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