A suburban Chicago mom whose child is battling cancer says a seemingly kind stranger who offered to pay her family's bills for a month instead sent her a bogus check. Now she's being charged overdraft fees from the bank that initially cleared the $3,500 check after she spent the money on rent and other bills.
"I thought it was a blessing at first; now I'm frustrated and angry," Deni Evernden, of Brookfield, said of her experience.
Evernden is a single mom to three kids, ages 10, 8 and 4. Her youngest, Anthony, was diagnosed with a type of Leukemia last year. He's now in remission and in long-term maintenance.
They've had a Gofundme page up since last December and have also shared their son's story on other social media platforms. Evernden said she got an Instagram message in early September from what appeared to be a Baton Rouge-based company that offered to pay the family's bills for a month.
"I could not believe that a company would reach out and had heard our story," she said.
Evernden thanked the person and sent her address. A check from the purported company, Southern Livestock Supply, arrived days later.
"The mailman came to my door, asked if I was Deni," she said. "I said sure -- signed for a check."
She deposited it at PNC Bank in La Grange Park with a teller, she said. After the $3,500 cleared, she paid her rent of $2,400 then used the rest to cover other bills, she said.
Evernden said she didn't notice that her bank account was negative until she was on a trip last month that the Make-a-Wish Foundation had facilitated. Anthony, who loves animals, had wished to go to Disney World and pet dinosaurs.
When she called her bank she was told that the check was fraudulent, despite it having cleared. The bank told her to contact the company who sent her the check.
Evernden said she doesn't understand how someone could conceive of such a fraud. "Is it providing a laugh that he hurt us financially?"
Evernden is unable to work full-time, and the bank has since taken her most recent $771 Social Security check, all as she accumulates overdraft fees, which are $10 a day.
"I've been going back and forth with corporate and fraud and there’s nothing they can do," she said.
A manager with Southern Livestock Supply Company confirmed to NBC Chicago that they had checks stolen and have received other calls about fraudulent checks in their name. They said the matter is under police investigation. NBC Chicago has left a message with owner Parry Richardson for more information.
PNC Bank said in a statement that "we cannot discuss the details of Ms. Evernden’s banking transactions, but we can share that we are actively working with her to address her concern."
The statement went on to say: "PNC maintains standard processes for identifying potentially suspicious activity. Our commitment to customers includes providing information intended to help them protect themselves against potential scams. Additionally, we will cooperate fully with law enforcement personnel on any investigation related to this matter."
Evernden said she had not yet filed her own police report but was planning to do so on Thursday. She said she blames her bank branch for their part in her ordeal.
"They should not make funds available until they verify it," she said.