(WSPA) – A year ago, we brought you the story of an Oconee County woman who lost $20,000 to an elaborate scam.
However, it turned out to be only the beginning of a journey for Grandma Seneca, which took her all the way to the country’s capital.
How her words affect the fight against financial fraud in this 7NEWS consumer exclusive.
When we first met Polly Feller in January 2022, the retired Air Force officer and former registered nurse was struggling to pay back $20,000 that fraudsters forced her to wire after they hacked her bank account.
That’s when she told us, “I didn’t just fall, I went to hell with it.”
Today, she’s happy to announce, “I’m on top of the world right now.”
As Feller will attest, this journey didn’t happen overnight.
INVITATION OF CONGRESS TO WASHINGTON
A few months after our story aired, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s office contacted 7NEWS to contact Feller and invite her to speak at a hearing on Elder Fraud.
“And they were so encouraging, they said, do you understand that if you come to Washington and you can testify before the Senate Committee on Aging about exactly what happened to you, they will be able to ask you questions and they will be able to lay out everything in the open, Feller said.
So Feller went to the nation’s capital despite her nerves, and by all accounts she said it felt like she had done it a thousand times.
“I’m here today because I survived. God is giving me the strength to get my life back, and I want others to know that there is hope,” Feller said on hearing.
HOW THE SCAM WORKED
Feller explained to lawmakers that hackers accessed her bank account, activated a loan in her name and used it to trick her into giving it to fraudsters.
She told lawmakers how her bank, USAA, failed to alert her to the unusual activity.
“They saw that I took out $20,000 on my line of credit. I did not open this credit line for 17 years,” she explained at the meeting.
Sen. Scott told 7NEWS that her words were powerful, so we asked him if he thought her testimony could help pass future legislation to help seniors.
“I hope so, I certainly think if it doesn’t happen I’d be stunned. Her testimony was fantastic, it was compelling, but it also allowed us to see the breadcrumbs to prevent more fraud in more areas. One of the things we’ve done is work on ours A book about fraud and her testimony will continue to make the next iteration of this book even more powerful, more influential, and frankly, reduce fraud because of her testimony,” Senator Scott said.
It was not only the senator from South Carolina who was impressed. He said that so did Senator Collins, who asked Mrs. Feller this poignant question:
“If someone at your bank saw this very suspicious transaction when you open a line of credit that you haven’t used in I think 17 years and asked you about it, would that stop the scam?” asked Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
“Yes, and that would have stopped it at any level, they could have emailed me, they could have texted me, they could have called me. If I take a trip and use a credit card and I don’t tell USAA that I’m traveling through another state, the first charge may go through and the second time my card will be frozen. It’s $20. It’s about $20,000, and they didn’t think I had the right to wait for the notice,” Feller said at the hearing.
Feller told 7NEWS the experience renewed her hope to help others.
“The most gratifying part for me is to see this committee at work, because they didn’t work the way you see them on TV, where this one is fighting the other. They worked together. It was fantastic to see such camaraderie between the members of this committee. It was beautiful,” Feller said of her return to Seneca.
HOW LAWMAKERS CAN HELP VICTIMS, SAYS FELLER
When the hearing was over, it wasn’t over yet.
As Senator Scott thanked her, she asked if she could make one more comment.
“If the banks themselves make a decision, it is not viable, they will lose money, of course they will lean towards it, it is a biased conclusion. Is there any way to make sure that they have an independent body to oversee those who want to appeal one of their decisions?” Feller asked members of the Committee on Aging.
Chairman Senator Casey said: “Thank you, we will certainly take this into consideration, we will learn a lot from these hearings and get a lot of good ideas.”
Feller said her testimony in September helped her feel stronger, but what really put her on cloud nine was something that happened just a few weeks ago.
Feller then got word from USAA that her fraud claim had been resolved and her $20,000 plus interest was being refunded.
“I don’t know who initiated the reopening of the bank, I don’t know how it happened or what happened, I just want to say who is big or small, I just want to say thank you.”
We reached out to USAA about reopening its case, and while the company did not respond in time for broadcast, USAA’s initial statement said:
“We strongly encourage all consumers to never send money to someone you don’t know, and we have programs in place to warn and educate our members, as well as checks and balances to deter and detect suspicious activity. Reputable companies will never contact you and ask for confidential information or ask you to send them money. When in doubt, it’s best to hang up and contact the company directly before taking any action.”
Feller wants to make sure every US citizen knows about Anti-fraud hotline administered by the Senate Select Committee on Aging, (855) 303-9470.
An upstate fraud victim is taking her fight for more protections to Congress
Source link An upstate fraud victim is taking her fight for more protections to Congress