A new season of The Perfect Scam has launched and we begin with a story that is very sweet. It’s actually about cookies. Not the kind that track you, but the kind you can eat! Unfortunately, before Lura’s Kitchen was able to send out its first order of cookies, criminals stuck their hand in the cookie jar. A hacker used Zelle to drain the owner’s bank accounts, including every last penny she had borrowed through a small business development loan. Lura Daniels Ball then spent months in Limbo, as all her dreams for Lura’s Kitchen were stuck on hold — and she was stuck on hold with Bank of America.
I love this story because Lura is an amazing character and her voice leaps out of the microphone. She’s a professional singer and spent her life supporting the arts and her family. Now recently widowed, she decided to pursue a lifelong dream of taking her baking to the next level.
Lura has always been a marvelous baker. She invents recipes for special occasions, like her son’s good report card or her daughter’s recital solo. She gives treats away at church too, and thinks of all this as her “baking ministry.” Lucky for us, Lura’s family and friends recently convinced her to turn her passion into something professional, so we can all “feel the love” of her craft. She spent nearly two years testing and perfecting her products.
But before she could fulfill her first order, Lura received a call from someone who said he works with Bank of America security, and her money is about to be stolen. She has to act fast to stop it! A few moments later, $18,500 is taken from her account, removed by someone with control of her Zelle account. When she calls Bank of America back, she’s told there’s nothing they can do.
“She’s feeling, defeated, hopeless,” Lura’s sister Iva told me. You’ll like her too. “She’s feeling all of these things because this is a single black woman starting a business off the ground with very little backup funds, and has managed to scrape together enough to actually start her business, and now a bulk of that is gone.”
Readers know I’ve written a lot about Zelle since 2018, when I saw the first reports of systematic Zelle hacking. I’ve since heard countless stories about victims getting the wrong advice from banks, who sometimes flat-out refuse to honor legitimate Regulation E disputes that should lead to consumers being “refunded” money stolen through unauthorized transfers. This story is important to me because it puts quite a human face on these victims. It gives me a chance to wonder why banks have gotten away with it so long, and why regulators haven’t done more to fix this.
Along the way, I also got to try some of Lura’s chocolate chip cookies, which are next level.
I hope you’ll listen to this two-part episode. You can click on the play button below, or click here to visit The Perfect Scam home page, or just download The Perfect Scam wherever you listen to podcasts.