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Sweepstakes/Lottery/Prizes

Scam Type

Sweepstakes/Lottery/Prizes Scam

Business Name Used

Better Business Bureau – IMPOSTER

Date Reported

Aug 22, 2022

Victim Postal Code

94501

Total Dollars Lost

0

Scam Description

Friday (08-19-2022)
I was first contacted by , which is a trusted email source that I frequently receive PayPal order and refund confirmations from, so I trusted the source. The email informed me that I was being invoiced for $400.00. I automatically thought that this was suspicious, so I proceeded to my PayPal account online. There was indeed a charge on my account for $400.00, so without thinking twice, I called the number on the email. Please always verify that the number is actually PayPal. This is where I went wrong from the very beginning.
I called the number provided on the email and reported the invoice on my account, and asked it to be removed. The party on the other line proceeded to ask me questions regarding the transaction and asked me if I had given out my PayPal credentials to anyone that I know. They told me to not worry about the charge and that it would be removed. They then proceeded to tell me that there were a lot of hackers on my phone and laptop and to download the application “AnyDesk” to clear them out. I Googled this first to find out what it was, as I have never heard of it before, and it is basically a remote desktop that cleans out your phone. I said “No, I am not comfortable with this at all”. They told me that it is safe to download it and they are just trying to protect me. I did not budge on this, so they moved on to another method to get money from me.
They then told me that they were monitoring traffic on incoming purchases and transactions on my bank account and that they saw fraudulent activity. The next step was telling me that I needed to lower my checking account balance immediately. The transactions were done through the purchases of $500 gift cards, 4 at a time, all from big retailer stores; ie) Target, Safeway, CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens. I was told that gift cards would be deposited to my savings account. I was told that the scammer worked for the Better Business Bureau in San Jose (government branch of PayPal that protected PayPal customers and helps stop hackers). They also told me to not tell my friends, family, or the big retailer stores what was going on (RED FLAG). “It was classified information because they worked with the government”. The whole time I was questioning if this was real or not, so I kept asking them questions. They told me they would never ask me for any financial information and that all of our dealings were confidential and to remain secret.
After 3 hours of purchasing gift cards, I was told that the balance needed to still be lowered so I needed to go out to get more gift cards. I told them “no”. They kept trying to tell me that it was for my own safety so they gave me the alternative to go to the bank and withdraw money to deposit into a Bitcoin ATM machine, which would then be routed to my savings account (Bitcoin wallet). With the money I withdrew, they had me purchase more gift cards before going to the Bitcoin ATM. The money I did not use was then deposited to the Bitcoin ATM machine / the scammer’s wallet.
The whole day was me talking on the phone with the scammer. They gave specific instructions to stay on the phone with them while I was driving from place to place (To ensure I was following through with what they were telling me to do, but they used the language “so they could monitor any suspicious activity coming into my phone”). They told me they would follow-up with me in the morning, as they would wrap up everything on Friday night to get rid of all the hackers.
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Saturday (08-20-2022)
I received a call from the scammer on Saturday morning, telling me that they have removed most of the hackers, but had a few more they were trying to block out. They asked me to go to the bank and that I would need to take out “most of the money” and to not check my balances online because it was “not safe”. My gut was making me sick and I knew that this would not end, so I proceeded to go the bank and withdrew the amount that they asked me to. They asked me to go to the Bitcoin ATM machine again and to deposit it to the Bitcoin wallet.
I was very busy with family on Saturday and did not have time to step away and complete this transaction. It was a blessing in disguise because the scammer did not get the money they asked me to withdraw. It is 2 days later since I last spoke to the scammer, and that money is still sitting on my desk at home. I never followed through and did not call them back.
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Moral of the story:
1) Trust your gut.
2) Check that your sources are accurate.
3) Always check with your bank.
4) Do not give out personal information.
5) Talk to your family and friends.
6) Be aware.
7) Be smart.
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I hope that my story can help other individuals our there to not go down the same path that I did. This is an experience that I will never forget and one that has shaken me to my core. Please always be smart and trust your gut. The world we live in today is NOT safe, so we need to protect OURSELVES.