A senior couple from California has lost nearly $700,00 , the equivalent of £560,000, in a scam after being convinced to make multiple fake Amazon purchases and wire transfers.
Appearing on ABC 10 News, William and Ave Bortz hoped to live out their years on the money they had saved and cash from a recent home sale.
However, an elaborate scam derailed their retirement plans in January 2021 when they received a scam email which they incorrectly thought was from Amazon.
The fake email said they had purchased about $1,500 (£1201.35) worth of products which had been sent to another address.
Calling the number on the email to fix the issue, William spoke with the scammer who told him to allow them access to their computers remotely.
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The couple’s daughter, also called Ave, said her parents were not alarmed by this as they were used to people remotely controlling their computers and detailed how the scam was carried out after control was given.
She explained: “It’s because my husband had always fixed it (the computer) from San Diego to Los Angeles so he was used to seeing his computer remotely accessed.
“The fake Amazon website said they had spent $2,000 (£1601.80) to ship this product, enter the money so we know what money to credit you back with and all of a sudden, there was $200,000 (£160,180) my parents had sent to Amazon.
“The hacker said in order for us to get this money back, we need to synchronise the refund server with Amazon. [They claimed] to do that you need to wire transfer that amount to the Amazon Refund Recovery Centre.”
The fake Amazon employee was persistent and called the couple multiple times a day from first thing in the morning to late in the evening.
Not realising he was being defrauded, William went to his local Chase Bank branch to make the first wire transfer.
According to the victim, the scammers coached him on what to say when he went to two different branches four times in eight days to wire money to Hong Kong and China.
Overall, the married couple of 53 years lost $690,500 (£553,021.45) after the scam was complete.
On being scammed, William said: “I was not brought up to believe that people will lie with that level of bad faith.
“I felt very violated. Very violated. I thought the bank should have asked me more questions.
“They (the bank) asked me if I would consider being a client at their private banking operation because I had assets to invest.”
In light of this, the couple have brought a lawsuit against Chase Bank which alleges financial elder abuse and unfair business practices.
Despite being dismissed, it is currently active in the appeals process and has garnered state-wide attention.
Attorney Sil Vossler added: “Some courts are interpreting the financial abuse statutes to say if the bank should know about the scam, they can be held liable. Other courts are saying no, the bank needs to have actual knowledge.”
A Chase spokesperson said: “While Mr Borz is entitled to make a dispute, the Federal Court has already dismissed the case twice.
“Consumers should always be suspicious when someone they don’t know asks them to urgently send money.”