Heartless phone scammers stole $22,000 from an 80-year-old Tenafly woman by claiming her computer was hacked and her banking information was compromised, police said.
Claiming to be from “Apple technical support,” the thieves called each night for five nights, getting the woman to buy GooglePlay gift cards in $500 allotments at various stores to cover the “investigation,” Capt. Michael deMoncada said.
Once they got her to provide the numbers from one batch of cards, they told her she had to buy more, deMoncada said.
Eventually, they convinced her to buy 45 cards, he said.
It would have gotten even worse if a concerned store clerk hadn’t called police and refused to sell her another card when the elderly victim couldn’t explain why she needed them, the captain said.
“Unfortunately, these types of scams are becoming more and more common, targeting our more vulnerable populations,” deMoncada said.
So many people have fallen for such scams that the government estimates it contributes to combined losses to victims across the U.S. of $328 million.
Victims 70 and older have suffered the highest average losses, according to the AARP.
Scammers work from outside the United States and can’t be tracked down, deMoncada noted.
They convince their victims that they need to pay for an outstanding warrant, or owe the IRS money, of that they have to pay bail money for a grandson who’s in trouble.
Once you get the cards and give away the numbers, your money is gone for good.
Remember: Any type of legitimate caller won’t pressure you to buy gift cards or to wire money, or threaten to arrest you.
“The best defense against becoming a victim is to be aware that these scams are perpetrated every single day,” deMoncada said.
Never disclose any personal information, including your date of birth, social security number, or credit card or bank account numbers to anyone who calls you out of the blue, the captain said.
“In this particular case, we were lucky an attentive store clerk knew something wasn’t right and contacted us to help,” deMoncada said. “Without it, this victim would have likely been scammed out of thousands of more dollars.”
If you think you’ve been scammed, or know someone who has, call police immediately.
And if you have elderly parents, relatives or friends, please share this story with them. Warn them about the dangers and advise them on how to respond.
“Help us spread the word,” deMoncada said. “Speak with those you love about how to avoid being a victim.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.