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Scammers used contactless payment to steal $300 from Denver woman's bank account

Expert says woman could be victim of SIM swapping
'I do work hard for my money,' Denver woman fights to get fraudulent charges removed from debit card
Posted at 10:19 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 00:28:28-04

DENVER — A Denver woman woke up one day to find fraudulent charges made on her debit card. One month later, she's still trying to get her money back.

"It was early in the morning, just before 7 a.m. when I got the alerts," said Ashlee Lamoth.

On April 15, Lamoth says she was notified through a series of fraud alerts that close to $300 had been spent on her debit card. She immediately notified her bank that the charges weren't hers.

The charges were made in Florida using contactless payment methods. Lamoth told Denver7 she's never made contactless transactions nor traveled to Florida.

"At first I felt secure because I thought my bank had my back," she said. "I was never there in West Palm Beach. I don't even know anybody there,"

Now, Lamoth isn't so sure about her bank.

She says initially, the bank credited the money back to her account. But less than a week later, she was told she would be responsible for the charges.

"[The bank] said it was my device that had been used to make those purchases in Florida," Lamoth said.

Steve Beaty, a professor of computer science at MSU Denver, says Lamoth could have been the victim of SIM swapping.

According to Beaty, SIM swapping happens when bad actors trick employees at mobile carriers into switching a victim's phone number to a SIM card in their possession. The switch allows the scammer to send "forgot password" or "account recovery" requests, then the scammer can easily take a victim's money.

Beaty says people can protect themselves by carefully choosing answers for security questions.

"When they ask you for your mother's maiden name — lie," he said. "Do not give your mother's maiden name. Do not give your elementary school. Do not give the name of your first pet. Make something up."

Lamoth hopes others can learn from her situation as she continues to dispute the charges with her bank. The latest step, she's been told, is to submit proof she never left the state.

"I was in Denver in a country club area doing landscaping work," she said. "I do work hard for my money. It doesn't matter if it's a thousand dollars or $200, it shouldn't happen to anybody."

Lamoth has filed a police report and submitted additional documentation to a banking representative.

Denver7 reached out to Lamoth's bank and wireless provider for additional information. This story will be updated once additional information is shared.

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