Elderly scam victims in Dallas demand Chase recover $55,000

Scammers stole nearly $55,000 from two elderly Dallas-Fort Worth women who bank with JPMorgan Chase.

Both women say they lost their money despite alerting Chase early enough to reverse the withdrawal. Chase contends the women authorized the transfers – unwittingly or not – so there’s little the banking giant can do about it.

Retired Dallas Independent School District administrator Shirley Ison-Newsome, 75, has sued Chase, alleging her bank account was drained by more than $51,000. She is seeking monetary relief of up to $250,000.

Ison-Newsome said she was at her computer when it froze and gave her a warning it had been hacked. The message appeared to be from Microsoft and provided a number to call. The contact told her they had someone on staff who specifically worked with her bank and could help protect her account. She spent hours on the phone, thinking she was being helped.

The next morning, she was at Chase Bank when it opened. A bank employee told Ison-Newsome the $51,000 was still in the account and assured her it had been caught in time to be moved into a new account.

But a few weeks later when Ison-Newsome logged into her new account, the money wasn’t there, she said.

“I realize now that Chase has a way of stringing you along over a period of time,” she said.

After weeks of back and forth, Ison-Newsome reached Chase corporate, which told her there was nothing it could do because she fell for a scam, she said. But Ison-Newsome blames Chase because she had been assured the money had been frozen.

“I worked all my life,” she said. “I paid my bills on time. I tried to do the right thing. I’ve been with Chase for over 20 years, and I trusted Chase.”

Ison-Newsome said losing her savings to a scammer has aged her.

“It has taken an emotional, physical and financial toll on me,” she said. “It’s devastated me.”

Chase filed a motion Jan. 12 to dismiss the lawsuit, calling Ison-Newsome’s claim a “scattershot pleading” because she authorized the international wire transfer.

The FBI said in its 2021 annual report on elder fraud that the number of seniors scammed has “risen at an alarming rate, while the loss amounts are even more staggering.” In 2021, some 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $1.7 billion, about a 75% jump from the losses reported in 2020.

Ison-Newsome’s case is similar to what Phyllis Lopez, 69, experienced. She received a text on Oct. 19 asking if she had spent $782.07 at Nordstrom. She answered, “No.” A person claiming to be a Chase agent then called and went through a series of questions to “secure her account.”

Just as in the case of a Dallas woman who lost $12,000 to a fake Chase representative, Lopez said she trusted the caller because he knew her account and contact information. He had Lopez transfer the $3,500 in her account to a new account to “protect it,” she said.

“I immediately knew something was wrong,” Lopez said.

She called Chase and was transferred to the fraud department, which she said told her it restricted her account and advised her to visit her local branch to close her account and open a new one. She also was told the bank opened a fraud claim that would be investigated.

About a week later, Lopez called Chase and learned the fraud claim had been denied. She said she was told nothing could be done about it because, like Ison-Newsome, she had fallen for the scam and authorized the transfer.

Retired and living on Social Security, Lopez said the money was all she had to pay rent, get her medication and buy groceries. At first, she had been too embarrassed to tell anyone what happened. She eventually confided in her daughter, Melissa Adame, and her sister, Yolie Aguirre.

“She is an elder and has been an emotional, stressed mess that has been made literally sick with worry over this situation,” Aguirre said.

Adame and Aguirre went to the Chase branch with Lopez and asked a Chase employee to recall the wire transfer, Lopez said. The employee told them the fraud claim would be escalated.

They also filed a claim with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, as advised by Fort Worth police. From 2017 to 2021, the FBI’s center received 2.8 million voluntary cyber crime complaints, reporting a total loss of about $19 billion.

Chase spokesman Daniel Castorina said Lopez admitted sending a wire transfer and sharing a one-time passcode with the scammer. He also said Chase is still working to recover her money.

The bank said it will never ask a customer to send money to themself or to anyone else to prevent fraud and that customers can call the number on the back of their credit or debit card to ensure they’re talking to a real employee.