Senior Loses Over $84K to Amazon Internet Scam

CARLSBAD (KGTV) – A senior living in the North County said she lost her life savings in an elaborate internet scam in which she may have unwittingly given the thief access to her bank accounts.

Experts said the crooks are getting more creative, targeting not just the elderly, but ultimately anyone using popular sites like Amazon.

Vicki Tripp said an email she believed came from Amazon changed her life.

“There was a fee on Amazon for an iPhone and I knew it wasn’t my fee,” Tripp said. “There was a phone number to call for Amazon.”

She called the number and said the man on the other end told her a mistake had been made and the money would be refunded to her account. Tripp said he sounded “very professional”.

In reality, there was no real Amazon email and no iPhone purchase. What Tripp didn’t realize at the time was that she was giving crooks access to her computer through remote control software called “AnyDesk.”

Cybersecurity experts said these types of scams have been going on for years, but the pandemic has increased its popularity.

“Honestly, people with COVID have become even more comfortable with people having ‘remote access’ to their computers,” said Chris Pierson, CEO of cybersecurity firm BlackCloak.

Pierson said the scammers all follow the same script, convincing the victim that they need remote access to the computer to help. “Once you click and download the tool on your computer, the computer is now owned by the cyber criminals,” he said.

Tripp said she’s still not clear exactly how the scammers deposited thousands into her account — far more than she owed for the phone that didn’t actually exist.

“What happened was the transfer that was going to cost $2,500… it turned out to be $25,000,” Tripp said.

She said that in order to return that extra money, the fake Amazon employee told her to make a wire transfer and go to the bank. “After a few days, he said it hadn’t been received, so we have to make another transfer,” Tripp said.

Three wire transfers later, Tripp said she lost more than $84,000.

She panicked when she realized what had happened. “I support a son with a brain injury, so I don’t have to worry about me alone,” Tripp said.

Looking back, she told Team 10 she sees the red flags, but at the time, Tripp said the operation just went so smoothly. “There was no reason for me to ever question it,” she said.

Tripp also wished the bank could have issued a warning about an unsuspecting senior transferring money to an international account.

“Had that employee said there was a wire transfer scam going around right now, I would have called Amazon right away, and it never would have happened,” Tripp said.

Pierson said banks have guidelines for detecting identity theft, but he encourages people to be armed with knowledge to protect themselves.

“If there was something really fraudulent, you can go back and log into Amazon’s website yourself, or whatever website it is… call your bank yourself at the number you know isn’t the number they tell you, said Pierson. He also encourages victims to file a report with the FBI.

Tripp has filed a report with the police, the bank and the FTC. She said her once positive outlook on life is now gone. “Utilities, [it’s] very sad,” she says.

Tripp’s friends created a GoFundMe account to help her get back some of the money that was taken from her. That link is here.

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