‘Everything we had was gone’: Small business owner says he lost nearly $200,000 to wire transfer fraud

It started with a call from what he thought was his bank’s fraud division.

HOUSTON – A Cypress man, who owns a small business, says scammers wiped out nearly all the money in his trucking company’s checking account, and now he’s struggling to keep the business afloat.

After getting a text message asking about a purchase, Charles Haney got a call from what he thought was his bank’s fraud division on Dec. 7 to verify if he was paying for something in Florida.

“I told him, ‘No, I’m not,’” Haney said. “The only information I gave him was to verify what he was asking me.”

He said the caller already knew some of the information he was asked to verify, like account numbers, so he shared personal information under the impression the caller was helping stop the fraud and shut down his account.

But during that call on Dec. 7, he said his business relationship manager from his local Chase branch in Cypress called to ask if he was trying to wire transfer $42,000.

“I’ve never done a wire transfer,” Haney said. “My bank account is like most people’s: It’s very, very regimented.

Haney told the local relationship manager to cancel the wire transfer and that he was on the other line with Chase’s fraud division. He said the relationship manager suggested he return to that phone call and complete the account shut down.

“Then, for some reason, three more transfers went through totaling $188,000 and change,” Haney said. “Everything we had was gone... it was the entire working capital of my company.”

All four transfers went to banks in different states, according to bank statements Haney provided. His business checking account was drained from about $192,000 to around $3,000 within a matter of minutes.

Now, more than four months later, he’s struggling to pay the business bills and keep up with the payroll.

He reported it to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the FBI.

He also filed a fraud claim with Chase, which the bank denied, which doesn’t make sense, he said, since the local relationship manager called to ask about the first wire transfer.

“If I don’t know the number, I don’t answer the phone anymore,” Haney said. “It’s my past, my present, my future that just got stolen from me.”

KPRC 2 News reached out to Chase late Thursday, which wasn’t enough time for the bank to provide specifics on Haney’s situation.

“We urge all consumers to ignore phone or internet requests for money or access to their computer or bank accounts. Legitimate companies won’t make these requests, but scammers will,” a Chase spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.

According to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, wire transfer fraud is attractive for scammers because it’s convenient and the money is usually gone for good.

Signs of a scam, according to the AG’s Office, include when someone contacts you instead of the other way around, they want your personal information, or they ask for a confirmation code before withdrawing funds.

About the Author:

Bryce Newberry joined KPRC 2 in July 2022. He loves the thrill of breaking news and digging deep on a story that gets people talking.