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Commerce City woman responsible for repaying bank loan fraudulently taken out in her name

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Posted at 6:35 AM, Jun 11, 2024

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — A Commerce City woman realized she fell victim to a scam during what she thought was a call to her bank. But now, her bank is holding her responsible for repaying a loan taken out in her name.

When Rhiannon Pearson got a call from her bank saying that thousands of dollars had been deposited in her bank and that a loan was taken out in her name, it sent her into a panic.

The person on the other end of the line also said someone was trying to use Zelle to send money to other accounts. Pearson was instructed to send back the money in her account through three member-to-member transfers of $4,000 each.

During the call, she became suspicious and called her bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, on another line. Her suspicions were correct — she was scammed and it was too late, the money was gone.

“It’s a mess,” Pearson said. “It’s a nightmare.”

Commerce City woman responsible for repaying bank loan fraudulently taken out in her name

Pearson said the loan was already taken out in her name before the scammers called. They masked the number to look like Navy Federal Credit Union on caller ID. An IP address from Atlanta was used to apply for the loan, and it was approved in a matter of minutes according to Pearson’s records.

Now, Pearson is expected to pay back the loan because she was the one responsible for initiating the transfer.

“They hack your accounts, they take loans out in your name, and then you’re held responsible if you touch that money. And I had no idea,” she said.

Navy Federal Credit Union responded with a statement, noting that they are not able to comment on specific cases. They also pointed to resources on their website to avoid scams.

"We continue working to develop resources and educational material aimed at fraud prevention and protection,” the statement read.

Our Denver7 Investigates partners have reported on several similar scams in the past involving banks, but this is the first that involved the scammer taking out a loan in the name of the victim.

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David Weber, a forensic accounting professor at Salisbury University, said he feels banks do not take enough accountability and institutions have technological solutions but don’t use them.

“You can use geofencing technology to easily establish where somebody is when they’re applying for a loan,” Weber said.

He also added that banks have found a loophole in consumer protection laws that allows them to pass responsibility onto the scammed consumer if the consumer is the one who authorizes any fee transfers.

“We need to stop victim blaming people and victim shaming people,” Weber said.

Pearson has twice appealed the bank’s decision to require her to repay the loan. However, the bank did give her a credit for $4,500 without explanation.

However, she says she may have to declare bankruptcy if she has to make the $400 per month loan payments.

“I’m going to fight it,” Pearson said.

TIPS:

Denver7 Investigates has covered imposter scams several times over the past few years. Here are some tips regarding things your bank or credit union employees will never do over the phone:

  • They won’t ask for your PIN or password
  • They won’t ask you to transfer money or download troubleshooting software
  • They won’t try to pressure you to act immediately or threaten you in any way.




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