credit card theft

NBC 5 Responds: Credit Cards Stolen, Bank Account Drained

The family said they knew something was wrong shortly after they hired a new caregiver for their dad

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The day Jim Svoboda’s credit card was used to buy an Xbox game in 2017, his family said there was no way the 93-year old North Aurora man was the one who made that purchase, along with a raft of similar ones.

“Dad was already gone,” his daughter Nan Grommes told NBC 5 Responds.

Two years later, Grommes, the executor of Svoboda's estate, contacted NBC 5 Responds as her fight with a major bank continued over the fraudulent charges connected to this case.

The family said they knew something was wrong shortly after they hired a new caregiver in the summer of 2017 to help the family with Svoboda's care during overnight hours. They say she wasted no time. 

“She took the card and activated his debit card the first night she was there,” Grommes told NBC 5 Responds.

A bank statement outlined the activity on his debit card: nearly $20,000 drained in less than a month.

“It was all these ATM withdrawals. What the heck?” Grommes said her father rarely, if ever, used an ATM.

The family says they notified North Aurora police. After an internal inquiry, Svoboda's local bank returned the money. But shortly after, Grommes says the battle with her dad’s credit card issuer began.

A $960 bill stretched out over a few months contained a number of red flags, Grommes says: Xbox games were just the tip of the iceberg.

“That was hysterical, and all the Xbox games! Dad never, ever played a video game in his life,” Grommes said.

And then there was the party at an indoor trampoline park charged to his card.

“Dad was 93 and in a hospital bed at that time,” Grommes said. “Definitely not on a trampoline.”

Some of the charges continued in January of 2018, after Svoboda was already gone. He died in December of 2017.

“It’s like, you’re using his card and he’s not even here,” Grommes said. “He would not have been happy with it at all. I can’t even imagine if he would’ve been able to get a hold of her what he would’ve said to her.”

Grommes says the money was automatically withdrawn from her dad’s bank account, and no statement arrived in the mail, which explains why the charges went unseen for so many months. Once she discovered them, she says credit card issuer US Bank was less than receptive to refunding the fraudulent charges.

“You’d get, you know, transferred from here to there and hung up on, and call again, and ‘I’ll call you in two days,’ and it was terrible,” Grommes said. “I talked to at least 15 different people.”

Grommes says she sent her dad’s death certificate and proof she was executor of his estate at least three times, but still had trouble accessing accurate information about his account.

The last straw was when she says US Bank sent her dead father’s account to collections.

"We are always watching NBC… One day my husband and I, we see one of the Responds segments and he says you should call them up. ‘Yeah ok, they don't care about my little problem out here in Yorkville,’” Grommes says was her first reaction.

But she submitted her story, and after NBC5 responded: “Obviously, you care about everyone's problems everywhere. Which is awesome!"

NBC 5 Responds asked US Bank why there was a delay in returning the funds in question to Svoboda's estate and what else the family could do to prove the charges automatically withdrawn involved fraud. 

US Bank did not immediately respond, but after the inquiry, Grommes said she got the call – and the refund- she’d battled for for so many months.

"So grateful, so relieved, it was a long, long time, “ Grommes said. “I'm sure they were hoping I would give up but by then it was the principle."

A spokesman for US Bank said part of the delay involved an incorrect address where the refund was ultimately sent, but offered no further explanation on the timeline, except to say the matter was resolved. 

The criminal allegations, however, remain a source of frustration for Svoboda’s family. Why wasn’t the caregiver prosecuted for the theft of those cards and money?

North Aurora police say she was charged in a related matter, but after learning of the family’s questions are now re-opening the case to take another look.

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