My name is Charles, and this is how I got scammed, but survived it.
Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Originally posted on June 15, 2021
I was on my computer, using a web browser, and suddenly there came a flash across the screen, saying “This computer is blocked.”
This window popped up claiming it was from
Microsoft, and that I needed to call this phone number to unblock my computer. I couldn’t get it off my screen. I’m a realtor and I need my computer. So I called the number.
A man answered; he said his name was Samuel Lester and that he worked with Microsoft. He then read out his staff ID number.
I was upset. I’m 84 years old, and I had no way of knowing why or what just happened to my computer. But I knew I had to get it back online.
He said reassuring things, like “Well, we can work this out.”
He started asking me questions, and we got to talking. He had me read out what was on the computer screen. He said he would unlock my computer.
While we were on the phone, he took control of my computer. He told me that my computer had been compromised by a scam run by some coal company and that they had taken $4,000 out of my bank account. To get my money back, I had to purchase various gift cards to get this taken care of, and then “you’ll get your money back, within the next day or two,” he said.
I didn’t know it at the time, but while he had control of my computer, he accessed some personal and financial information from my computer, including my Sam’s Club membership. I don’t know how he did it, but the next day, $7,500 was transferred out of
I was on my computer, using a web browser, and suddenly there came a flash across the screen, saying “This computer is blocked.” This window popped up claiming it was from DRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:ept58Microsoft, and that I needed to call this phone number to unblock my computer.
my bank account that was linked to my membership.
That same day, he also used Zelle to make two $500 transfers from my other account with another bank, transferring the money to my checking account and then transferring it out. Zelle is apparently a payment network lots of banks use to transfer money.
It’s scary what these scammers can do, once they have a little information on you.
Over the phone, this Samuel Lester told me I needed to purchase a number of gift cards to get my money back into my bank account, and – for some reason – I believed him. Thinking back on it later, that explanation does not even make sense.
I must have been on the phone with him for 45-60 minutes. The call was from Everett, Wash., and he kept saying he was from Microsoft.
It just seemed like that was the right thing to do – but it wasn’t.
Like some foolish man, I agreed to buy these gift cards. It took me a couple days to get around to the various stores, but when I called this Samuel Lester back, I had a couple thousand dollars’ worth of gift cards. He had me scratch off and read him the numbers to him, then said “stay on the line” to make sure the problem was finally fixed. Unbeknownst to me, he was cashing those gift cards in. I never got that money back.
Eventually, I called my son and told him what had ha
ppened. He convinced me to contact the police and file a report. I’d fallen victim of what’s called a Tech Support scam.
Sherry Smith, an advocate from Crime Victim Service’s Elder Victim Ministry, called to check in on me and discuss what steps I’d taken to retrieve my money.
Much to my surprise, I did get my money back. But I will tell you this – y
ou can’t just call your bank and talk to whoever answers; you have to talk to the fraud department of your bank. Once I realized I needed to be talking to the fraud department, the process with the bank moved quickly. I got reimbursed from the original $7,500 that had been taken through my Sam’s Club membership, and another $1,000 reimbursement from the Zelle transfers.
I still had the scammer’s number, so one day, I called it again. The man who answered was not Samuel, but he knew the scammer, saying “Sammy got to you too, did he?”
Yes, he did.
To anyone else who has been scammed, I know you feel foolish, but you need to tell somebody about it. Call Crime Victim Services or Adult Protective Services for help and advice. File a police report. And you must change all your bank accou
nts and cards right away.
How has being scammed changed me? I got smarter.
I had screened my phone calls before, but now, if I don’t know the number, I don’t take the call. I don’t answer a lot of calls these days.
I turn my computer off completely, when I’m not using it.
I also pay monthly for identity protection and insurance through my bank, which I wish I’d had before all this happened.
I’m sharing my story because I want others to be aware. Since this happened, Sherry Smith from Crime Victim Services calls regularly to check in on me, which is very good of her.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15. Crime Victim Services advises you put up your guard against scams to protect yourself and your loved ones.
If you suspect a scam, hang up or close your web browser, stop all communicati
ons, and report the incident to law enforcement.
If you need additional support, contact Elysia Bush at Elder Victim Ministry, a program of Crime Victim Services: 419-222-8666 or toll-free 1-877-867-7273. Their services are free and confidential.
Charles is 84 years old and is a local realtor. When not working, he can be found golfing.