Modified: September 24, 2018 7:04am
The Victim’s Computer Remotely Accessed While She was Purchasing Gift Cards for Scammer
Buffalo, NY – Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard reports the actions by a Walmart employee and Deputy Mulhern prevented a woman from losing over $136,000.00 to a phone and computer scam.
On September 18, Deputy Mulhern was dispatched to Walmart on Transit Road in Lancaster following a call from an employee about possible fraud activities. The employee interacted with an Elma woman attempting to buy multiple gift cards in large dollar value amounts totaling thousands of dollars.
The Deputy spoke with the customer who stated that she received a call from an individual who identified himself as David Johnston from the Better Business Bureau and provided the woman with a fake ID number (BBB420L199D). The phone scammer explained that he was calling her about the Computer Assistance Program downloaded to her computer and that the company was going out of business. He further detailed she is owed a refund from the company. The subject instructed the woman to enter her personal information into a computer program and then enter $509.98 to claim the refund.
She continued and stated the subject claimed she made an error inputting her information, and she was accidentally overpaid. The subject insisted she go to Walmart and load money onto gift cards to repay the difference for the overpaid refund. The victim was also instructed to pay cash for the gift cards.
Deputy Mulhern and the victim contacted her bank to check for abnormal activity, and a bank representative stated six transactions totaling over $136,000.00 occurred recently, and the transfers were still pending. The bank representative placed an immediate stop on the transactions and permanently block further transactions from the accounts until new ones are established. The quick action prevented the woman from losing any money.
The Deputy followed her home, recorded the make, model, and serial numbers from the computer, and advised her to turn it off and unplug the device.
On September 19, Detective Brinkerhoff contacted the victim’s bank and briefed a financial crimes investigator of the incident. The bank’s investigator determined that the suspect had gained remote access to the victim’s computer and was able to transfer funds between the accounts.
“BBB commends the quick-thinking employee who recognized the scam and urges all businesses to educate and empower employees to be part of the solution to scams and fraud," said Warren Clark, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York. "Consumers also need to understand the tricks of scammers, and can learn more at BBB.org/AvoidScams. We also urge anyone who has been targeted by a scammer to report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.”
“It’s frustrating when we have to respond to these types of incidents because sometimes it is too late. But the quick action of my Deputy and an alert employee stopped a devastating crime,” stated Sheriff Howard. “I want to remind people to guard your personal information closely and when a person requests you to settle a debt with a gift card or prepaid credit card, stop because it is a scam. We continue to advise people just to hang up if the call seems suspicious or if they are asking for money.”
The victim’s computer will be submitted it to the Regional Computer Forensics Lab for a forensic examination of the system.