Plainfield family almost lost $11k to thieves using ‘grandchild scam’

PLAINFIELD, Ill. (WLS) – An elaborate trick known as “grandchild scam” is being used to trick grandparents and other loved ones into sending thousands of dollars to criminals.

The number of victims is growing and now there is a new, easier way for the bad guys to facilitate their scams by using an AM number.

Stephen Kocher’s mother sent $11,000 to a scammer claiming her grandson was seriously injured in a car crash and sent to jail. But it’s all a lie.

“He was completely emotionally drained, thinking that our grandson, our grandson, was hurt so badly, and he was in custody,” Kocher said.

The scammer called Kocher’s mother posing as the teenager in question; The family said the thief may have known the boy’s parents were out of town from a social media post, making the story more believable. Kocher thought the story was plausible.

“His parents were on vacation,” Kocher said. “They said he had an accident, and he hit a woman who was eight months pregnant. She was in a coma because of her injuries.” Kocher said.

MORE INFORMATION: Scammers use fake emergencies to steal your money

The scammer explains the difference in his voice by claiming his nose was broken in the crash. He also claims he is in juvenile jail and needs bail, court costs and attorney fees covered.

The phone rang again with more lies.

“The juvenile attorney claims that because of COVID they are not accepting deposits at Will County Court,” Kocher said the scammer told his mother. “So we had to go to PNC Bank and deposit this money with a pin code that the juvenile attorney would write, produce, and give to my brother to deposit at the bank. It sounds legit because of COVID. We think that makes sense.”

PNC’s ATM system allows you to withdraw and deposit money without a physical bank card. So the family went to a PNC ATM and deposited US$11,000, using only a PIN without a card or any other form of identification.

“That allows the scam to take place. At my own bank where I do transactions, I need a bank card or I need my smartphone at the terminal. I have to show the device to the customer. that terminal some kind of identification,” Kocher explained.

Report the scam to the FTC

Report the scam to the FBI

When the family can’t find their loved one in prison, they realize they’ve been scammed. They said they immediately contacted PNC Bank, which said it was investigating the deposit.

PNC is holding the money, but they are not returning it to the Kocher family because, according to Kocher, PNC told them they are not PNC customers.

Unlike most victims of this scam, the Kocher family eventually got their money back, 12 months later, after they told PNC they were working with the I-Team.

“The scammer wasn’t able to get their hands on the money. The problem was, we couldn’t get our hands on it for almost a year, because the PNC refused to give it back,” Kocher said.

The PNC told I-Team it “does not comment on customer issues,” but “generally … the length of time an investigation can take depending on the complexity of the situation.”

Regarding transactions that don’t require a bank card, PNC says its mobile app generates a one-time code when PNC customers enter their unique username and password. The bank recommends that any unexpected requests for money or personal information be first checked with a trusted source.

“We know how lucky we were to get our money back,” Kocher said.

The family also reported the incident to Plainfield police, who were able to track down a suspect with PNC bank deposits.

The alleged fraudster, Jose Vargas of Pennsylvania, pleaded not guilty to three felony counts and appeared in court this fall.

“The complaints we have received over the past few years are steadily increasing,” said Todd Kossow of the Federal Trade Commission.

Kossow said that in 2020, it had more than 20,000 complaints about “Family and Friends Impersonation Scams”. By 2021, that number has grown to nearly 36,000.

“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure that the perpetrators have on grandparents to act quickly. You know, they think their grandchildren are having a hard time, and they need help quickly, and they often tell them that you know, don’t talk to any other family members resisted that urge to act quickly and instead, check the story,” Kossow said.

The Kocher family said that despite the emotional rollercoaster ride and initial experience, they feel blessed to have been tackled and want their story to serve as a warning to others.

“Just absolute fear and horror of something happening to a family member of a young family member,” Kocher said.

Although this scam has been around for at least 15 years, the Federal Trade Commission says it’s successful because it hits people’s emotions and can perform different variations outside of a grandchild. are in trouble.

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