Christina Ihlenfeldt was conned into giving scammers $30,000 shortly after losing both her husband and her job.
The widow from Detroit received an email shortly after her husband passed, stating that her subscription to Best Buy’s Geek Squad was being automatically renewed. Ihlenfeldt did not want to be charged again, so she called the number listed in the email.
The person on the other end of the phone told her that he would refund her the $300, and casually asked her if her computer was running slow. Ihlenfeldt then gave him remote access to her computer.
“I just thought, ‘OK, he’s gonna look at my computer. It never dawned on me,” Ihlenfeldt said.
The scammer then claimed that he had accidentally forgot to enter the decimal point, and had given her $30,000. He begged her to wire the money back.
“As he typed in $300, there was no decimal point. $30,000 had indeed been deposited into my account. What was I to think at that point? He says, ‘I’m going to get in trouble if the company finds out, so we need to act on this.’ I had just lost my job and was thinking, ‘I don’t want this poor man to lose his job,’” Ihlenfeldt said.
She immediately went to the bank and wired the money back to him. Somehow, the transaction did not alert the bank employees to the possible fraud, which they are trained to detect. If a wire or other transaction is much larger than the customer’s typical transactions, bank employees are trained to ask certain questions in order to ascertain whether the transaction could be part of a scam.
Instead, the transaction went through, and the scammer never dropped the ruse. Ihlenfeldt said that the scammer told her, “Thank you, ma’am, for being so honest. God will bless you. Thank you for helping us to get our money back. We know you’re a widow. We know that this is money that you need.”
Scammers will often deposit fake checks or send money that their account does not have, and convince their target to send them back a certain amount while the fake deposit is still pending. As soon as the deposit is done pending, it bounces, leaving the target’s account short the amount that they sent to the scammers.
“I’m sorry. I just feel like such a fool for all of this,” Ihlenfeldt said. She has filed a police report and spoken with the FBI, and hopes that the scammer is caught before they victimize someone else.
Ihlenfeldt has good advice for anyone else who may find themselves in this situation: “If you don’t know what’s going on or you feel unsure, most of all, tell your bank when something like this happens. Let them handle it.”
Her family has set up a GoFundMe for her, which has raised more than $3,500.