MADISON, AL (WAFF) - A Madison woman's bank account was the target of a convincing con artist.
Jennifer Allen says the scammer had just enough information about her to make it sound legitimate, and now she's devastated.
Allen got a call on Friday from a man claiming to be a representative from HP saying her computer repair program had expired. She has an HP laptop, and had a repair program, so no red flags were raised by the call.
"I believed it was a legitimate call from the HP representative," said Allen.
The caller said he was going to give her a free repair package.
[READ MORE: Tips to keep you safe from scammers during the holidays]
"He somehow was able to get into my banking account, which I did not give him any information for, and he put in a dollar amount for the package," Allen explained. "Then he went on to say that he hit the wrong keys by mistake and that he needed the money back. Then he told me that for my patience, he was going to offer me another dollar amount. And he said he entered that wrong too and he needed that money back."
She disputed what he was doing, but the fake HP rep assured her repeatedly that he would not touch any of the funds in her account.
"He said that the only way that they could get their money back was for me to go to the store and buy the iTunes cards equivalent to the amount of money that he had put in my account by mistake, which I did," she stated.
When she got home, the scammer accessed the camera on her computer and had her scratch off the amounts of the iTunes cards so he could take photos.
"He assured me still that my account was still there, that nothing would be taken," Allen said.
The next morning, she got up and got on her computer, and found that several thousand dollars were missing from her accounts.
Allen says she can't believe she fell for the scheme because she is always listening for scam alerts on the news.
"I know the scam stories, but because he assured me that he was an HP representative and I do have an HP laptop, I thought the call was legitimate. It did not dawn on me that he was having me to go buy these iTunes cards. I thought that was the legitimate way that he would get his money refunded and not bother my funds that were already in my account," she revealed.
Now she doesn't know what she will do for Christmas.
"I'm a senior citizen. I live alone. I'm retired. This is devastating because he wiped out the few dollars that I had managed to save, and also my checking account," Allen added.
Now she's working with her bank to have all new accounts made and she's had her computer hard drive wiped clean. She also reported the theft to Madison Police and says in the future she won't be answering phone calls from any unfamiliar numbers. The scammer called her from a New York area code.
She tried calling him back when she realized what happened, but she got a dial tone.
"Now I just want to warn people that this could happen to the best of us. He zoned in on me having an HP laptop so from there, I thought I was doing the right thing, especially when he assured me that he would not bother the funds in my account," Allen stated. "How he accessed my account, I have no idea. I did not give him my account number or any information so apparently the computer was already hacked to begin with."
She stressed that anyone can fall prey to hackers and scammers.
"It's not just the elderly, this can happen to anyone because they zone in on something they know you already have need of and they go in for the kill. I am a little embarrassed by this interview, but if it can help the next person not to be taken advantage of then the story is worth it," she added.
Redstone Federal Credit Union provided some helpful tips:
- Do not let anyone remote your computer. If you having problems with it, take it to a reputable company locally.
- Do not log into your online banking if other people can see you do so.
- Anytime someone asks you to purchase gift cards to pay for anything, it is likely a scam.
- Confirm where funds came from before you spend them. If you have any questions, contact your financial institution to assist you in verifying the funds.
An online account has been set up to help Jennifer Allen. If you would like to make a contribution, click here.
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