Minnetonka locksmith loses $22K in sophisticated wire transfer scheme

Cracking codes and fixing locks for more than 20 years, Jessie Lesmeister is used to solving complex problems at his business Integrity Locksmith, but he's never experienced anything like the one he's been dealing with over the last eight months.

In December, he got a text message asking if he made a charge at a Best Buy store in Miami. From Minnetonka, he responded "no" and immediately got a call from a number with the caller ID listed as Wells Fargo, the company he had done small business banking with for decades.

The man on the phone said there was an attempt at a wire transfer, but they were able to catch it just in time.

"He sent me some advanced access codes and I repeated them back to him, which was something I had done in the past," said Lesmeister.

However, after getting off the phone, Jessie had a nagging feeling he may have been scammed. He went straight to a Wells Fargo branch in Golden Valley, but it was already too late.

Nearly $22,000 was instantly gone in an elaborate wire transfer scam. He filed reports with local police, the FBI, and the FTC, as well as a fraud claim with Wells Fargo, but he's no closer to getting any answers or his money back. Months of calls, emails, letters, and in-person conversations with the bank have yielded no concrete information as to why his fraud claim is being denied.

"You feel like you work so hard to do the right thing and make the right decisions and then this can happen in just a moment," said Lesmeister.

Bao Vang with the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota says scammers are constantly getting more sophisticated.

"We see a variety of different tactics (and) strategies - all to steal somebody's money or identity and it changes every single day," said Vang.

In addition to filing reports with local law enforcement, business owners can report scams on the BBB's scam tracker website

"You provide the information, so we can have that record of your experience...when other businesses and consumers go to this site, they can also learn about your experience," said Vang. 

Wells Fargo tells FOX 9 they will never call or text clients asking for the access code required to complete a wire transfer. Representatives have been "communicating directly to the customer regarding their case but cannot share information about our customer for privacy and confidentiality reasons."

They also sent FOX 9 the following statement: 

"We strive to do all that we can to support scam victims. When a customer reports they’ve fallen victim, we conduct a comprehensive investigation before sharing our findings with our customer. We remain focused on raising awareness of scams, and how wire transfers are an immediate form of payment that are typically irreversible, even if a customer quickly reports a wire they sent to a scammer."