5 On Your Side

5 On Your Side: She lost $90,000 to a scam

Posted January 5, 2021 4:42 p.m. EST
Updated January 5, 2021 7:35 p.m. EST

— Scammers are coming at us from every angle all the time.

You know the tactics used, until it happens to you. Victims say that, somehow, blinders go up.

"She thought she was contributing to a well-known musical artist who had fallen on hard times," Detective Mike Copeland, a financial crimes investigator for the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, recalled about a recent victim. "She donated money straight out of her checking account. She bought gift cards for this person and eventually cashed in her 401K for $90,000."

Copeland sees victims of all ages, all education levels. The victim he described was in her 30s.

He warns successful scams play on emotions.

"Your grandson’s in trouble, or the deputies are gonna come arrest you, that can be an adrenaline dump and the bigger the dump, the more vulnerable you are," said Copeland. "This is why my deputies get called to a Walmart and there’s a lady there with a phone in her ear, in her bathrobe at three o’clock in the morning, buying gift cards."

He says scammers convince victims to complete the mission.

"That voice is saying, stop, stop, stop, there’s something wrong. But again, you’ve got that emotion going, you’ve channeled it, you’re driven, you’re going to get it done."

Copeland contacted 5 On Your Side’s after a recent story about a scam involving unemployment fraud, where people filed for benefits using the names of WRAL News reporters Monica Laliberte and Brian Shrader.

Copeland says he’s seen a jump in those cases and others, including a scam using the Publisher’s Clearing House name where, supposedly, you won and just need to pay to claim your prize.

Bottom line, don’t trust any calls, emails or texts from people you don’t know who try to get your personal information, or if they try to get you to do anything that costs you money.

"Your money’s not coming back, it’s already overseas or been through six different bank accounts already," warned Copeland.

Especially since scams will never end, because we make it too easy to pull off.

This warning is worth repeating to parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors and of course, yourself!

The more we all talk about it, the more it will become second nature to stop.

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