Point police warn of scam attempts
FOR THE GAZETTE
STEVENS POINT – An area resident was nearly scammed out of thousands of dollars, apparently by someone in Texas posing as an official from PayPal.
On Aug. 4, Detectives from the Stevens Point Police Department received a call for service, where it appeared someone was possibly being scammed out of a large amount of money, as the victim was attempting to send $16,000 in cash via UPS to an address in Texas, stating it was for a PayPal issue.
Detectives were able to make contact with the victim, who told investigators they had received an email from PayPal indicating they had fraudulent activity on their account. The victim called the number indicated and was advised of a fraudulent charge on their account totalling $899. The scammer instructed the victim to request reimbursement through their company online. However, through this process the victim was made to think they had requested to be reimbursed much more money than they should have and now they needed to pay it back to this company.
The victim was directed to withdraw the money from their personal account and send it via a Bitcoin Automated Teller Machine, but was unsuccessful. The victim was then directed by the scammer to ship the money to PayPal, and was given a Texas address. This attempt to mail the money was unsuccessful because a UPS employee advised the victim they were being victimized, then contacted law enforcement officials.
The scammers tried again, and this time were successful. The victim retrieved their money from UPS and was again instructed by the scammer on the phone to send the money via a Bitcoin Automated Teller Machine located at a store in Stevens Point. That transaction went through. The scammer also had the victim buy gift cards and send the perpetrator the authorization codes, then had the target cut up all receipts.
While Detectives were investigating this case on Aug. 4, two other people arrived at the same location to deposit large sums of money into the same Bitcoin Automated Teller Machine. These people were quickly advised of the scam by law enforcement and were not out any money.
A warrant was requested and obtained through the Portage County District Attorney’s Office for the Bitcoin machine to take possession of the lost cash and the machine. The Stevens Point Fire Department assisted in opening the machine and the victim’s $16,000 was retrieved.
These scams appear to mainly involve messages via computer or text, that randomly appear and direct the victims to call staff due to their computer being hacked or something similar. Once correspondence with the scammers is established via phone call, the victims are told that fraudulent charges had occurred. In some instances, additions to the fraudulent charges, such as involvement in child pornography or other threats of suspected criminal activity, is added to the information told to the victims of the scam.
The victims are told of their current bank account balances, which are accurate and help to convince the victims that this was not a scam. This information seems to be available to the scammer through Spyware. The victims are directed to withdraw all of their available money from their account and take the cash to a cryptocurrency machine so that it can be deposited and therefore would be secure.
In other scam cases the victims are sometimes directed to purchase gift cards to pay the scammer, send cash or meet someone to pick up the cash.
The suspects who give these directions appear to be in a call center with background noises being heard that are consistent with other phone conversations taking place by other people in the same room. The suspects appeared to have a foreign accent suggesting they possibly originated from India, according to police. Once on the phone with the victim, the scammers often do not want the victim to hang up and make the victim stay on the line with them the entire time during the scam.
If you have been victim of such a scam, or think you have, please notify your local law enforcement if you wish. Police are also asking that everyone helps to educate each other on potential scam risks and certain things that should make you question the validity of the issue at hand, to try and avoid any future scams.