CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s an old scam with some modern twists; someone calls a senior citizen, pretending to be a relative in trouble, and asks for money. One victim wants to share her story to prevent others from falling victim to the con.
Bonnie Archer gets around fine for a 76-year-old recovering from heart surgery, but a recent phone call while running errands threw her for a loop.
The call was from her dear nephew, Gary, or so she thought.
“The voice was so like Gary’s voice,” she said. “He says ‘I need to tell you something, but it has to be in complete privacy.”
It wasn’t Gary, though. It was a scam artist claiming to be Gary, in jail in Washington state, following a drunk driving crash.
The phone would ring again soon, supposedly from his attorney. In total, she received 25 calls from eight phone numbers.
“I’m absolutely exhausted,” she said.
During those calls, she was told to get $5,000 cash from her bank, and bring it to the Jewel store near her home. At the store, she had specific instructions to convert the cash to Bitcoin with a Coinstar machine.
Archer kept detailed notes of those calls. The numbers tracked back to the Washington Department of Corrections and an actual attorney. That’s called spoofing, when scammers falsify the number that shows up on caller ID to make the call appear legitimate.
“This one, I felt, was really unbelievably real,” Archer said.
Archer found out Gary was fine, but not until she’d sent the scammer the $5,000.
“She’s a very caring person,” Gary said. “They should be ashamed of themselves, which they’re not going to be, to take advantage of preying on elderly people like that. It’s just terrible.
“I want others to know – especially senior citizens that are the most vulnerable – of these scams, to know that this one is going on,” Archer said.
A spokesperson for Coinme, the cryptocurrency company that sells bitcoin at Coinstar kiosks, said it would cooperate with police if investigators reach out.
Police in northwest suburban Huntley, where Archer lives, said the incident is under investigation, but wouldn’t say if they’ve contacted Coinme.