Elderly Hoover man loses life savings in tech support scheme

Elderly Hoover man loses life savings in tech support scheme
84-year-old Newell Brand says he lost his life savings in a tech support scheme. (Source: Joshua Gauntt)

HOOVER, Ala. (WBRC) -An elderly Hoover man says he lost his life savings. He tells us he was tricked by someone he thought he could trust. Now he’s warning others.

Last month, 84-year-old Newell Brand was told his computer needed cleaning. Brand was connected with a guy named “Robert” from a company he’s worked with in the past. Robert took over Brand’s computer for a day. That’s when his troubles started.

"He preceded to say that I was due a refund of $1,500 because the company was closing and that he would send the money to me by wire,” Brand said.

“Robert” told Brand, who is also a Korean war veteran, that he would send $250 of that $1,500 to make sure it goes through into Brand’s bank account. A black screen popped up on his computer monitor. Brand was then given specific instructions on what to type in the black screen. A short time later, he says $25,000 somehow appeared in his checking account.

"And then he said oh my god, you made a mistake. You've got to rectify this man. The VP's will be after me,” Brand said.

Brand was told he had to refund over $24,000. He then tried wiring the money but "Robert" told him it was blocked and that he needed to go out and purchase gift cards to offset the loss.

"I go to Walgreens and purchased $950. I go to Home Depot and purchased $3,000 in gift cards,” Brand said.

Brand then told his family about it and that's when it hit him. He immediately checked his bank account

"Sure enough the $20,000 I had in savings and the $9,000 I had in checking was down to $2,000 in each account,” Brand said.

The computer crooks cleaned out Brand’s savings account. Brand says he trusted “Robert”.

"I was in total shock really. I saw all this visually. I saw the computer being cleaned up. I saw the amount in my bank account but then it all vanished,” Brand said.

Sadly, Brand isn’t alone. In its 2018 internet crime report, the FBI says this type of tech support fraud is up over 160% from last year

“We see a tremendous amount of fraud happening to individuals who never think they are going to be a victim,” Robert Hill, a cyber security expert said. “It’s very common they got the information from his email and they actually scanned your system looking for a way in to gain your confidence.”

Hill says it may seem obvious, but always double check who you’re dealing with online. Hill says odds are Brand isn't going to get the bulk of his money back.

"Take time and think about it. Instead of in the heat of that emotional moment, take a few minutes and tell them that you will call them back. Get a phone number from them so that you can reach back out to them. Don’t make decisions immediately after they contacted you,” Hill said.

Brand says he's learned a big lesson.

"Be very cautious. Anything dealing with money or refund, don't do it. 800-numbers hang up. Don't proceed to answer those calls,” Brand said.

Brand has filed a police report and contacted the state in hopes of trying to get his money back.

Our cyber security expert says it’s also a good idea to get a secondary debit card with a different number with a very limited amount of money on it to use for online purchases to keep your money and information safe.

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