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‘I participated in my own robbery’: fake Apple support stole $1,000 from a local woman

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News 8 On Your Side: A Quad Cities woman was just trying to cancel her Apple TV subscription. Instead, scammers cleaned out her bank account.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Normally when we hear about scam calls, it’s the scammers trying to contact us, by calling and pretending to be someone they’re not. But one local woman, who’s asked to remain anonymous for this interview, says she reached to to them, unknowingly. And thus so, unknowingly participated in her own robbery. 

She was trying to cancel her Apple TV subscription, and get a $10 charge refunded, but wasn’t getting anywhere by sending emails. Finally, she googled a phone number for Apple support, and clicked on what appeared to be Apple’s website. 

After calling the number, the man on the other line told her he would cancel the subscription and refund the $10. But first, he needed her to do something. 

“He said ‘I’m having a problem refunding you. I’m gonna need you to download an app,'” she recalled. Of the two that she downloaded, one allowed him remote access, and the other was Cash App, a peer to peer money transferring service. 

“He had me enter some numbers and he said ‘I’m gonna take a dollar from your account now, just to make sure we’ve got an open line,'” she said. 

Eventually, he had her start entering numbers into Cash App… he called them ‘code numbers,’ but in reality, it was the amount of withdrawals he was making from her checking account. 

Within minutes, he had taken over a thousand dollars from her. 

“I didn’t realize until I got off the phone and I received a fraud call from my credit union,” she said. When she tried calling the number back, it had been disconnected, and the fake website with the number was gone too. 

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“So that’s how I participated in my own robbery,” she remarked, before explaining that while she’s disputing the charges with her bank, there’s hardly any chance she’ll see the money again. 

She says this isn’t the first time scammers have contacted her, so it hits especially hard that this one was able to break through and steal her money. 

“It’s just made me doubt myself. I’ve had grandson calls from people that are not my grandsons trying to get bail money from me and I saw through that right away. I get these calls from Amazon all the time that someone’s charging on my prime card, and I don’t fall for those,” she said. 

It’s not uncommon for scammers to pose as big tech companies like Apple and Amazon. Randy Meier is the director of the Seniors vs. Crime department in the Clinton County Sherriff’s office. He says these types of phishing scams are common. 

“It’s a cautionary tale to everyone that when you do a google search, just because you land on something that looks like it might be the right thing, don’t bet the farm on it,” he warns. 

Meier says there are several red flags in her story that others can look for and avoid. First, it’s a red flag if businesses start asking you to download financial products or apps – even if they’re ones you’re familiar with, and especially if these apps allow them remote access to your computer or device. 

“That’s a huge warning sign right there,” said Meier. “It’s really like giving someone the keys to your home and then providing them the combination to our safe at the same time.” 

Second, businesses shouldn’t ask you to pay any sort of money to cancel a subscription or receive a refund. 

Third, businesses typically won’t use financially mechanisms you’re unfamiliar with, especially huge corporations like Apple and Amazon. 

And finally, he says it’s best to use a credit card when purchasing things online, since it gives you a little security in case you need to dispute a transaction. 

“A peer to peer transaction, that’s like me handing you cash, and at that point, me getting my money back is based on your good will,” Meier said. 

At any point, if you’re feeling uncomfortable or you detect something is wrong, he says it’s best to just hang up the phone; turn of your internet; shut your computer down; and get a hold of your bank immediately. 

“It just hurts my heart. It hurts my pride. And it just makes me doubt myself. I’ve gotten so I don’t even want to answer the phone,” said the woman. 

She asks that everyone out there be careful, and learn to hang up the phone if someone asks for you to download an app so they can help you. 

“I thought well I’m smart, they’re not gonna get me. But they did,” she said. “Lesson learned. Expensive lesson, but lesson learned.” 

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