Lehi woman’s bank account drained nearly a year after smash-and-grab burglary

Jan 21, 2022, 7:14 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 6:16 pm

LEHI, Utah — A Lehi woman is sharing a warning for others after her bank account was cleaned out by an identity thief who impersonated her at several Utah County banks. It’s how the thief got the woman’s information, which she fears means there are many other victims out there.

The suspect hit up a handful of Altabank branches, getting away with withdrawing more than $12,000 in cash this week.

Moneka Pace is what you’d call cautious — well, in her words, paranoid.

“I’m so paranoid about it. I hate to be obsessive, but that’s kind of where it’s driven me,” she said, sitting at her kitchen table with her laptop in front of her Thursday evening.

She finds herself constantly logging into her bank account to check the transactions and balance, after $12,200 disappeared from her savings account on Tuesday.

Pace found out that someone impersonated her at the drive-thrus at the Altabank branches in Lehi, American Fork and Pleasant Grove. The female fraudster was finally stopped at the Altabank in Alpine.

“I was surprised at how easy … how easily it was done,” Pace reacted.

Especially because, she’d already taken every step to prevent this from happening after what happened to Pace last year.

Ten months ago, Pace’s car was broken into and a burglar stole her purse before draining her HSA account by purchasing gift cards at pharmacies.

Pace wasn’t the only victim. Police told her at the time it was part of a multicounty smash-and-grab ring.

Car Burglars Use Stolen HSA Cards For Spending Spree

She canceled all of her cards and registered her ID as stolen with the DMV, which reissued her a new driver’s license.

“I thought it was done and over with,” Pace explained. “I’m going, ‘Really, did this just happen again?! Am I really doing this all over again?!'”

She’s back in the same spot, nearly a year later.

“They had been using my stolen ID and my stolen debit card, which both had been canceled and reported stolen,” Pace said.

Altabank explains that suspects in identity thefts like this one are growing more sophisticated in their tactics. Chief Marketing Officer Stan Sorensen said that these people typically do their homework, by researching the person they’re impersonating as much as possible.

Whoever posed as Pace at the four drive-thrus Tuesday, Sorensen indicated, knew enough about Pace to pass as her and withdraw anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 at three of the locations.

“She was able to convince a couple of our tellers that she really was the person whose ID she presented,” he said.

It was the fourth stop in Alpine where Sorensen said an experienced bank teller knew something wasn’t adding up.

“She actually said to the suspect, ‘You’re going to need to come inside so that we can finish this transaction,'” Sorensen said. “And that was enough to scare this suspect away.”

Each branch called police in the respective cities and filed reports.

Sorensen said that Pace did everything right after her bank card was stolen, including calling the bank right away, putting a watch on the account, canceling the card and requesting a replacement.

He said the bank offers additional safety checks for customers, including requiring a passphrase that only the bank and customer know.

It’s important to frequently check bank account balances and transactions, Sorenson explained, and keep an eye out for anything strange.

Altabank is replacing the money, which means the bank is out that $12,200 instead of Pace.

While Pace is relieved to be receiving her funds back, she’s sharing a message to help protect others: You can never be too paranoid when it comes to your money, and your identity.

“Just put all your measures in place,” she said. “They could still have your information and be out to do more harm.”

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Lehi woman’s bank account drained nearly a year after smash-and-grab burglary