A North county woman lost more than $100,000 in just five days. Oceanside police said thieves took her money using a computer scam unlike any they've ever seen.
The victim, 68, was home working on her computer when something popped up, saying she had a computer virus. It provided a number that matched a number for Microsoft, she clicked on it and called the number.
“They sounded very real, sounded professional,” Oceanside Police Detective Sgt. John McKean said.
The scammers on the other end of the phone scared the victim into believing the cybercriminals who hacked her computer could also steal her money from her online banking. They told her she had to buy gift cards to move the money out of the bank and secure her funds, according to the victim's daughter.
The victim used her credit and debit cards and went to Target, Macy's, and Nordstrom in Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Escondido to purchase the gift cards. The suspects stayed on the phone with her in case the clerk got curious.
“They even tell you if you're confronted by a store employee who asks is this a scam to let them know, ‘Yes, I know who this person is, they're helping me out,’” McKean said.
Oceanside Police said as soon as the victim left the store, she read the numbers on the back of the gift cards to the scammers.
“There's a website you can sell gift cards on, it can go on to dark web where it's done anonymously, and people buy these gift cards for a penny on the dollar,” McKean said.
The victim lost $119,000 in a matter of five days just before Thanksgiving.
The victim's daughter said the scammers made her believe she was talking to the bank, and they were able to up the limit she could spend each day.
The cards were sold on the web and used in New York, Oregon, Washington State, and California.
“It happens to very smart and bright people just take advantage of the right time and right place,” McKean said.
The bank is looking into what happened, and the victim's daughter said they are hopeful about getting their money back.