NBC4 INVESTIGATES: How a man tracked $14,000 in identity fraud to Ohio from 5 states away

ATTICA, Ohio (WCMH) — Attica has a population of 840, but it’s also home to a community bank that has more than a billion dollars in assets.

That little bank bears the burden for protecting millions of consumers all over the world, who might not know it, from fraud targeting them anywhere. Mark Dabertin, chief compliance officer and executive vice president of Sutton Bank, said the bank owes much of its growth and longevity in the financial industry to its relationships with financial technology companies, also known as fintech.

“That began about five years ago, and today Sutton Bank is very successful in probably maintaining 100 such relationships with fintechs that offer both consumer and commercial financial products and services,” Dabertin said.

Those partnerships include companies with millions of users, such as CashApp. Sutton also issues prepaid cards for CashApp, Fanduel and dozens of other tech companies, according to Dabertin.

“It’s crucial that community banks embrace innovation. One way to do that is to partner with fintech companies,” Dabertin told NBC4 Investigates.

He explained that smaller banks can collect higher fees on debit transactions than the larger banks do, and Sutton jumped on what it considered to be a lucrative business opportunity. For example, Dabertin said all CashApp users are automatically issued a debit account with Sutton Bank, regardless of whether or not they use it.

Sutton also partners with a smaller banking app called Albert as well, but it has dozens of fraud complaints on the Better Business Bureau’s website.

Banks are heavily regulated by the government. Laws require them to protect your money. Because fintech companies like Albert are not banks, they often partner with banks and benefit from their licenses without being held to the same standards by the government. The catch for Sutton, according to consumer finance attorney Alexander Darr, is they’re on the hook for covering customers who fall victim to fraud.

“Sutton Bank is completely vulnerable to the legal risk,” Dabertin said. “Because as the issuer of the product or service in question, the law is very clear that we hold all of the responsibility for ensuring that all of the activity is performed in a legally compliant manner.”

A scammer recently used the app when pretending to be a Colorado accountant’s client, tricking him into sending over $14,000. That accountant, Evan Bernabei, couldn’t get any help from Albert’s customer support in getting his money back.

“We do our best to make sure that we’re dealing with good players. If there’s a high number of complaints or their business reputation is such that we’d no longer wish to associate with them, then we’d have to look at, frankly, terminating that relationship,” Dabertin said.

Dabertin was not able to discuss any dialogue Sutton may or may not be having with Albert.

“I can’t comment on any specific relationships. What I can say is that it’s something we are constantly monitoring for because we are required to,” Dabertin said. “I’ll put it this way: there are relationships that we did not enter into on that basis, yes. Are there relationships that we would seek to execute on that basis? Yes. Can I divulge anything more than that? No.”

Dabertin recommends reading the fine print before opening an account on any financial app.

“If you read your terms and conditions, you will understand what your rights are and you can more fully protect yourself,” he said.

Bernabei got half of his money back after filing a complaint with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation against Sutton Bank, which followed up with Albert and Bernabei.

Albert declined to comment for this story.