BATAVIA – A city resident fell victim to a scam that involved claiming a family member was stuck in customs and needed a wire transfer of cash – but with a police officer’s quick assistance, the $1,613 lost was refunded, according to a Batavia police report released after a Freedom of Information Act request.
A resident of the 2400 block of Hawks Drive reported to police on July 25 that he had been called by someone identifying himself as a family member, stuck in customs in Chicago and required a wire transfer, the report stated.
The caller claimed to have family in Aurora, the report stated.
The caller stated he was only supposed to bring $10,000 in cash through customs, but had brought more, so money was needed to get through customs, the report stated.
The caller said he was working with a lawyer and if the resident provided bank information, he would refund all the money paid at a later time, the report stated.
The caller instructed the victim to send money via wire transfer to be received in Zapopan, a city in Jalisco, Mexico.
The victim made one wire transfer from the Walmart in Batavia for $1,098 in cash, plus the transfer fee of $16.
Then he was told more money was needed, so he transferred an additional $500 plus another transfer fee of $8, for a total of $1,613 lost, the report stated.
The victim was told to send photos with details of his checking account, debit card, Social Security card, a photo ID, email address and passwords to confirm everything. The victim also sent his user ID for his bank account, the report stated.
The victim provided wire transfer receipts and text messages between him and the scammer to police, reports stated.
Police asked the resident to attempt to log in to his online banking account and found that he could not.
The resident called the bank and the officer assisted in explaining that the debit card was compromised, that the resident was a victim of fraud and that the entire account had been compromised. Bank officials froze his account and said that he would receive new account information and a new debit card the following week, the report stated.
The officer also advised the resident to go to Walmart and see if the transactions could be stopped. And when the officer followed up, the resident showed her an email stating the money had been refunded, the report stated.
The resident’s son was going to assist in calling the Social Security Administration about the compromised information.
The officer also advised the resident to sign up for credit report monitoring and identity theft, the report stated.
The Federal Trade Commission calls these family emergency scams, intended to trick victims into sending money before they realize it’s a scam, according to its website, www.consumer.ftc.gov.
If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money, the FTC recommends that you resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
Instead, verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer; call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine; check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
The FTC recommends not to wire money or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
“Scammers pressure people into wiring money because it’s like sending cash – once it’s gone, you can’t trace it or get it back,” according to the FTC website. “Imposters encourage using money transfer services so they can get your money before you realize you’ve been scammed."
Fraud should be reported online at www.ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 877-382-4357 and to the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
In 2018, AARP reported that family emergency scams cost victims $41 million.