GA family’s entire savings account wiped out in seconds by criminals

ORLANDO, Fla. — Emily Willard was sitting on the beach with her two toddlers and her husband when the phone started ringing with emergency calls from the bank.


“I had gotten two phone calls, and so the third phone call, I answered, and it popped up saying Charles Schwab,” Willard told our sister station WSB’s consumer investigator Justin Gray.

The Brookhaven resident and elementary school teacher said when she picked up, she was told there were fraud attempts on her Charles Schwab bank account.

Willard was told there was a suspicious attempted wire transfer for thousands of dollars.

“I was panicked because I was like, oh my gosh, that’s most of our money, that is about to be gone,” she said.

But it turned out the woman on the phone was not with Charles Schwab, she was the criminal.

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The fraudster was impersonating the bank to get banking information and an access code from the Willards.

“I hung up the phone and checked my email and it said all of my money had been transferred,” she said.

The first wire transfer was for $300 immediately followed by a second transfer for more than $9,200 that wiped out the family’s savings.

“They left us with $4.43. (I) can’t even go buy a meal with that,” Willard said.

“All that just kind of taken within an instant. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s awful,” Emily’s husband Mark said.

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Charles Schwab denied the Willard’s fraud claim since the family technically, unknowingly authorized the wire transfer.

The bank representative writing to the couple wrote, “I know this is upsetting.” Then ending the sentence with a frowny face emoji.

“That doesn’t make me feel good. You’re a little sad face emoji,” Emily Willard said.

“This can happen with any bank, with any institution. Your money just feels safer beneath your bed at this point,” Mark Willard said.

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A Charles Schwab spokesperson tells WSB in a statement:

“The distressing trend of imposter fraud by criminals is emblematic of a growing trend across the industry. According to the FTC, imposter scams such as this one were the biggest schemes of 2023 and show no signs of slowing in 2024 as they run rampant across social media and elsewhere. By tricking people into voluntarily giving up access to their personal information, these criminals steal money from the vulnerable and unsuspecting. And both the private sector and law enforcement struggle to retrieve those funds once they are gone. The only foolproof protection is prevention. We continue to urge our clients to be cautious, remain vigilant in protecting their personal information, and stay skeptical when it comes to financial transactions.”

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Carl-Max Millionard, WFTV.com

Carl-Max Millionard is a Content Creator for WFTV.com.

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