Woman scammed nearly $500 thinking she was posting bonds – we faced suspected scammer

CHICAGO (CBS) – Scammers are targeting zoom bond hearings – costing families hundreds of dollars while leaving their loved ones locked up.

CBS 2’s Jermont Terry caught one of the alleged scammers in person on Tuesday.

If you call the suspected scammer, by Tuesday night he’s still picking up the phone and telling people they can get their family member out of jail using the Cash App or Zelle.

But the woman you’ll meet in this story has been sitting outside the Cook County Jail for over 12 hours – only to discover that she’s been duped. She questioned why not more was done to prevent such behaviour.

“It’s hard,” says Laura Valadez of Berwyn. “It’s really, really hard.”

Now it’s even harder for her. Last week, when her husband, Toby Valadez, was arrested for driving without a license, she went to Cook County Criminal Curt to sign up.

“Got to the affiliated court area and couldn’t get in,” Valadez said.

That’s because the hearings are still happening on Zoom. After receiving help from the county sheriff’s deputy, Laura Valadez and her daughter arrived late to Zoom.

However, as soon as they logged in, they received a message in the chat room.

“They ask, who are we there for?” Valadez said. “And so my daughter named my husband.”

Then that person begins to inform them of how they can bind her husband. He suggested a number to call – and Valadez did.

Terry: “What are you comfortable with this individual because he first contacted you through the secure Zoom link to the courts?”

Valadez: “Right.”

An exchange of text messages at 10 a.m. showed a fake court representative telling Valadez she could use Zelle. The receipt shows that Valadez and his daughter deposited $498.

Then they went down to the Cook County Jail and waited.

“We sat there from 11:30 to 3 a.m.,” Valadez said.

Her husband is someone who doesn’t show up. And when 3 a.m. rolled around, she called back.

“When he answered the phone, it looked like he was at a party, laughing – and he said, ‘Oh, hold back,'” Valadez said.

So CBS 2’s Terry wanted to find out if the man would pick him up. He called, and here’s what happened:

Terry: “Hello, is this the bond hearing?”

Man: “Right.”

Terry: “Are you affiliated with the Cook County clerk?”

Man: “Right.”

Terry: “OK, what’s your name?”

Man: “Everhart.”

Terry: “Everhart, OK – and how do I pay if I want to pay?”

Man: “You arrive at 2650 S. California – Cash App or Zelle.”

Terry then told the man on the other end of the Cook County scam warning that no payments were ever made via the Cash App or Zelle. Here’s how he responded:

Terry: “Are you a scammer?”

Man: “Maybe so.”

Terry: “Okay, why are you scamming people from $500, and how long have you been doing that?”

Man: “It’s not $500, it’s $400. Have a nice day.”

Terry: “I’m calling from Channel 2 News. I wanted to let you know that we know what you’re up to.”

Man: “Thank.”

Terry: “Why do you treat people like that, sir?”

Man: “Have a nice day.”

Terry: “No, how about you answer some questions?”

Valadez has filed a police report, but she is asking the district courts to do more.

“They didn’t say anything about scammers being able to go there, and I think they should,” she said.

A spokesman for the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court said it warned people about Zoom scammers at the start of the pandemic and had a warning on the office’s website.

However, when a person logs in with their phone, that warning is hard to see. And as you can see, the scammer suspected here doesn’t seem too worried about getting caught.

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