Gig Harbor business owner scammed out of $85k by what appeared to be his bank
GIG HARBOR, Wash. - A restaurant owner says he was scammed out of thousands of dollars within seconds after getting a call directly from what he thought was his bank.
Erik Smith, the owner of Green House Restaurant in Gig Harbor, says he received a text message from Chase Bank around 8:48 a.m. Dec. 12.
"The message asking if I had authorized a transaction at a Walmart in Pensacola, Florida for about $499 reply ‘Y’ if yes, and ‘N’ if no," Smith said.
He says he immediately replied ‘N,' which prompted a fraud phone call within 45 seconds.
"They said ‘there's active fraud going on your account. People are trying to wire out large sums of money. We need to stop this now,'" Smith recalled.
He says the person on the line told him they had a two-factor authentication and sent him a pin asking him to verify it.
The 36-year-old says the codes he received came from the same number Chase allegedly has used to reach him before. He shared the one-time verification pin with whom he thought was a banker.
Smith says he was trying to keep his business safe when the person on the other end of the line hacked his account.
"I had no way to know that this was a fraudulent thing," Smith said. "From that point on, he had they had access to my account and were operating as if it was me."
Smith says whoever was behind the phone sent two wire transfers to Wells Fargo accounts in Texas totaling $85,500.
"It's just, this made it tough. It happened two weeks before Christmas," Smith said.
The business didn't skip a beat and employees didn't go unpaid, but Smith was put to the test.
He reached out to his local Chase branch the same day, hoping for a resolution.
"They went and contacted their higher-ups and said that they would work on recalling those transactions, but that it was basically in the hands of Wells Fargo now," Smith said.
He reached out to Wells Fargo too, who advised him they would do their research on the matter as well.
"I was then later informed that once it has been sent by wire, that's one of the things that they do is you have to check mark that you authorize this to go through," Smith said.
A transaction he says he did not authorize.
"But the person who called me posing as me did," Smith said. "This is my whole life. My wife and I bought this place, you know, hoping to make a better future for our kids."
It's been nearly two months since the theft, without a resolution.
"I just feel like been kind of betrayed. Feels like a nasty breakup," Smith said. "You leave your money with banks because you want to feel safe, you want to feel protected and I have not felt that in any way shape or form throughout this entire ordeal."
He says he's been banking with Chase for over 20 years on a personal level and a business owner as of late. His money has not yet been recovered.
"My biggest concern through all of this, is the grandmas that are sitting at home. They get the phone call from their Chase Bank that they've been going to for 50 years, saying that there's fraud, and they fall victim to this and now every dime that they have is gone," Smith said.
The business owner is skeptical as these incidents are becoming too common.
"It just makes you wonder what they have access to and how secure is your stuff," Smith said. "I don't necessarily think that these people were going after me specifically because I was a business, I don't think they really care. I think they do their research they find out who has a little bit of money in the bank and they go after them."
Smith is now warning you, if the bank calls, hang up and look up their number yourself before calling back and disclosing any information.
He's filed a report with Gig Harbor Police.
On Wednesday afternoon, FOX 13 reached out to Chase Bank who said they need time to research this case.
We will continue to update this story.