NBC 5 Responds

‘Our Jaws Dropped': Thieves Target Retirement Accounts

A suburban Chicago couple tells their story after their retirement account is also hit by thieves impersonating Fidelity customers.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The night NBC 5 Responds' report on the theft of $40,000 from a suburban Chicago couple's retirement account aired in May, NBC 5 viewer Teri D. said she bolted upright in her bed. Her husband, Paul, said his jaw hit the floor. 

The couple, who asked NBC 5 not use their last name for privacy reasons, said the story profiled in our report was identical to an ordeal they also experienced.

The parallels might make any consumer stop in their tracks: same investment firm, same monetary amount, same modus operandi used by the thieves. The couples say they even used the same Fidelity branch in Schaumburg to open their accounts.

Despite the similarities in their incidents, there is one major difference to report.

"K" and "J," the Fidelity customers in our first report, who also asked NBC 5 to withhold their names for security reasons, said appeals to get their money returned were denied multiple times. They received reimbursement following a months-long battle and after they asked NBC 5 Responds to investigate their case.

Call it a different kind of bank robbery: thieves are now reaching into retirement accounts, which frequently have far fewer protections than traditional banks. NBC 5 Responds’ Lisa Parker has the story of one couple who saw their retirement savings attacked by thieves.

In the second incident, Paul and Teri caught and reported the theft in their account almost in real-time: within about five hours of it occurring. Because they identified the theft within Fidelity’s required 30-day timeframe, Paul and Teri said their money was returned to their account almost immediately.  

Paul and Teri said that while Fidelity returned their $40,000, the firm has not restored their peace of mind.  

"That's when I contacted you and said something else is going on. You may want to be aware of this," Paul told NBC 5 Responds. "There are too many coincidences here."

Paul and Teri said Fidelity has not informed them of any investigation that took place subsequent to the reported breach of Paul’s account. K and J told us they had similar unsettling, and unanswered, questions after their experience. 

Michael Aalto, spokesman for Fidelity, told NBC 5 Responds the firm could not answer some of our detailed questions regarding this second incident. He offered this statement, on behalf of Fidelity: 

"As you know from when we spoke previously, we typically do not comment on these types of matters, but I can tell you that we have not identified any connection between these two cases and that our systems were not compromised in this matter.  The customers’ credentials were obtained elsewhere.  Since the customers responded to our transaction notifications quickly, unlike (the first couple), we were able to take immediate action and the customers did not lose any funds. We are cooperating with appropriate authorities but I am unable to comment further on this case.” 

The explanation doesn't quite sit right with Paul and Teri, who are both retired from the IT field and who say they practice excellent computer hygiene. 

"Some people would say, 'OK, Paul and Teri, what do you care? You’re okay.' But we're not like that as people. We smell a rat. I don't know where the rat might be, but we smell a rat," Teri said. 

Both couples interviewed by NBC 5 Responds say they hope Fidelity and authorities will investigate further to determine what level of risk, if any, other customers may face.    

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