Staying aware key to protecting yourself from online identity theft

September 06, 2018 06:47 PM

Jerry Abdelnour operates a multi-million dollar company. That Coke you got with your fries, chances are if you live in the Northeast, J&J Service in Cohoes is the reason for your refreshing beverage.

"We do work for about 3,200 McDonald's in 16 states," explained Abdelnour.

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When he combined some business with a family vacation to Myrtle Beach last year, his wife, Diane, logged online to do some banking. What she discovered instead surprised them.

"Our line of credit -- which never has anything on it, has $128,000 linked to it," he explained.

They immediately contacted their representative at Key Bank, to report fraud.

"He says, 'Is this a check that you wrote? Jerry signed it.' 'Have you guys bought a plane, because the check is made out to a title company in Oklahoma buying a plane,'" explained Abdelnour.

A copy of the check used shows a fake routing number and a made up check number. The signature looks like Abdelnour's, but isn't.

"There are only two characteristics in it that look like I do it and it's definitely something that I designed a long time ago," he pointed out.

"If the signature is really close, our system will pick it up if there's one thing off or not," noted Key Bank Area Retail Leader Harjit Earnest.

She was surprised that this check managed to slip through the security measures and safeguards the company has in place, but she admits:

"We do have individuals that work in our fraud area that are monitoring this, but it is very electronic."

Here's how the scam works:

A scammer will use a fake check to attempt to buy a house, boat or even a plane. The money must first sit in a title company for 48 hours. Once cleared, the perp backs out of the deal. They're forced to pay a 15 to 20 percent cancellation fee, but walk away with the remainder of the loan.

In Abdelnour's case, it would have been a cool $100,000 of untraceable cash.

WEB EXTRA: Jerry Abdelnour talks about how the line of credit scam works

"Had Diane not gone into our bank account on Tuesday morning to check and see if the check we actually wrote was deposited, we would have never seen this," explained Abdelnour.

Making sure you have strong user IDs and passwords, keeping your checks in a safe location no one but you has access to and signing up for notifications are key in making sure you don't become a victim of a line of credit scam. Also, know your banking representatives and vice versa.

"Make sure your banker knows who you are, how you do your finances day in, day out, so that in these types of situations we can call you and protect you," advised Earnest.

Abdelnour says his wife monitors their account first thing every morning. He insists that if you don't use your line of credit, the best way to protect yourself is close the account. NewsChannel 13 is told law enforcement is still investigating who tried to take the Abdelnour's money.


Karen Tararache

Copyright 2018 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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