If it looks fishy, throw it back, Cleburne police say.

“Basically, that’s it,” Cleburne Police Department Cpl. Dennis Ney said. “If someone calls saying they’re from AT&T, the IRS, Social Security or whatever agency and ask you for personal information just hang up and then call a known number for that agency or company.”

Ney stressed that anytime someone calls purporting to represent a business or agency and asks for personal account or identification information — via telephone or email — they are almost certainly attempting to scam you.

“No one’s going to call to say they owe you money,” Ney said. “If AT&T or whoever owes you money they’re just going to send you a check. No one legitimate is going to call to tell you there’s an arrest warrant out for you, or that the police are going to come get you unless you send money or gift cards. If you get calls or emails like that, hang up or delete.”

One Cleburne couple learned that lesson the hard way earlier this month to the tune of $4,500.

The couple, who asked that their names not be published, reported the fraud to Cleburne police on Nov. 14.

The couple said the woman received a call from a man claiming to be an AT&T representative who told her that the company owed her $250. The scammer told the woman he could refund the money via a computer program that allows a third party to access her computer.

The woman logged into her bank account and “proceeded to give [the scammer] control of her computer to enable him to move money into her account,” according to police reports.

The scammer then told the woman that $4,000 had accidentally been deposited in her account instead of $250 and said he would lose his job unless he got the difference back. The woman offered to take the withdraw the excess cash from her account and send it to him, but he declined.

The scammer instead told the woman that he needed the money back in gift cards and demanded that she go buy them immediately, according to reports.

The woman told police that she withdrew $3,500 from her bank and proceeded to buy gift cards from Wal-Mart, Albertson’s and other stores throughout the county. 

Throughout that time the scammer demanded that the woman remain on the phone with him and, any time she hung up, called her back repeatedly until she answered.

The scammer, after each gift card purchase, demanded that the woman read off the validation numbers and pin numbers to gain access to the cards. The scammer and another person, purported to be the scammer’s supervisor, yelled at and threatened the woman throughout the incident and warned her not to tell anyone about the calls.

When the woman returned home from purchasing the gift cards she realized that someone had accessed her computer remotely and had locked her out from access to it.

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