They were able to spot tens of thousands of dollars in mysterious withdrawals from their accounts because they checked their statements. But the money was taken by a company they say they’ve never heard of, so they asked ABC7’s I-Team to investigate.
They don’t know each other, but their bank statements show similar withdrawals. They all say they were victims of the same fraud: a medical company withdrew money from their accounts, for a combined total of more than $40,000.
The large sums of money were taken directly from the bank accounts of the three Oak Park families by Vollen Medical Center.
“It sent me into an instant panic because I immediately thought, ‘Oh no, did we charge something by accident? What happened? ‘” Audrey Barrientos told the I-Team.
When she received a low balance warning from her bank, PNC, she logged on to find nearly $10,000 withdrawn by Vollen.
The bank could not stop the transaction because it was a direct debit.
“They used our full bank account and routing numbers, along with my husband’s name, to withdraw the money,” Barrientos said.
That same month, Andy Carey had more than $22,000 taken from his Chase accounts withdrawn by Vollen Medical Center. Carey’s bank said they couldn’t stop it either.
“Very disturbing,” he said. “I didn’t feel like it was safer than hiding it under the mattress or putting it in a safe in the house.”
Oak Parker Laura Riff’s USAA bank account had nearly $10,000 directly withdrawn by Vollen.
“We don’t know how anyone got this information,” she said.
The banks of Riff and Barrientos investigated and several days later returned the money, but their accounts were nearly depleted during this time.
Carey said his bank, Chase, did not send a refund, but when the I-Team became involved, Chase said: “We looked into Mr. Carey’s case and made sure his funds were being returned to him. We also apologize for any initial confusion due to a duplicate claim filing.”
“As soon as you try to touch the pillow, your mind races to all the things you’re trying to figure out,” Carey said. “How it happened, and trying to figure out how to prevent it from happening again in the future.”
The three consumers reunited after posting their situation on Facebook. They started a search for Vollen Medical Center, but all they found was a Google address that said it was in the West Loop.
“Nobody ever answered,” Riff said. “The phone just rings.”
“And upon further investigation, their location or address was not even a medical facility,” Barrientos added.
The I-Team traveled to the address listed for Vollen Medical Center, a shared office space. We spoke to officials here in this building and they say Vollen never had a medical facility here, but they only use the space to receive mail.
The Illinois Department of Public Health says it has no record of a Vollen Medical Center as a registered provider with the state.
We emailed a contact at Vollen Medical and received a response from a “Ms. Dixie, Operations Manager” saying that Vollen never bills clients unless services are rendered.
The email went on to say, “I berate you for spreading fictitious stories about Vollen Medical without due process being followed to address the issue.
“Ms. Dixie” offered to review the charges after we provided each person’s name and the amount charged. Consumers said they had never heard of Vollen.
The I-Team also called another contact for the company, but never heard back.
“When I found out there were people in the community who had similar situations, it made me even more nervous because I thought, well, who stole our information?” said Barrientos. “I felt very violated.”
The families still do not know how Vollen was able to obtain their private banking information.
But one bank said it was possible that in such cases consumers had provided routing and account numbers to another business name they believed to be legitimate. Or, their information could have been compromised by another provider, who had their routing and account numbers.
“And if you don’t know how it happened, it’s hard to come up with a solution to prevent it from happening again,” Carey added.
Banks say consumers should keep in mind that routing numbers and account numbers are also on physical checks that can be stolen from a mailbox or business.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All rights reserved.