JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A rare type of scam tricked a First Coast woman out of more than $4,000, and the Better Business Bureau says they' haven't seen anything quite like it.
The con artists used a tool many legitimate tech support companies use as well, screen sharing software that gives someone access to a computer miles away.
A Jacksonville grandmother, who did not want to be identified, says she was trying to do the right thing, when the wrong person took control of her computer.
She doesn't know who is behind a plot that may have started a year ago. She says a salesperson contacted her in 2016 to sell her a tech support program costing $150. Recently, she believes the same people called again.
"They said the program had expired and they wanted to refund my money," she explained. "I [remembered] paying them so if they wanted to refund [me] that was fine."
The representative told her to log into her computer using a screen sharing program called Team Viewer. Then they asked her to check her online bank account to see the refund. She said her screen kept going black.
"They said 'do you see [the refund]?'" she said. "I said, 'well, I see a nice amount.'"
She saw two 'nice' deposits in her account log of over $2,000 each. Both appeared to have been made by the tech support company. The representative told her this was a mistake and that the money belonged to another customer.
Not wanting to keep money that was not hers, the 80 year old woman agreed to go to her bank, withdraw the 'excess' money and deposit it into another account they provided to her. The scammers even offered to let her keep $300 for the trouble.
She later learned, all of the money was her own.
She believes the fraudulent company put up a fake screenshot to look like her online bank account. However, during the times her screen went black, that's when she believes they were transferring thousands from her own savings and sub-accounts into her checking account. The result was extra money in her checking account when she went to the bank for the ordered withdrawal.
"I've never had anything like this happen to me and I hope to heaven I never have it again," she said. "I don't want it to happen to anyone else, I don't want anyone to go through this."
Tom Stephens, president of Northeast Florida's Better Business Bureau, said it's a sophisticated scheme he hasn't seen before.
"If it's the same organization (from 2016), they set this thing up in advance," said Stephens. "Then to come a year later and pull the trigger is an amazing thing for a scam organization. Anybody can fall victim to something like this."
Stephens says it could be the same company or two fraudulent companies sharing client contact information.
"The fact that they're working a year ahead is just phenomenal because that means they've already set up people for next year, the year after that and the year after that," Stephens said.
Stephens identified three red flags that could keep consumers from falling prey.
- Typically, legitimate technology companies will not call a customer directly about a computer issue.
- Do not give anyone access to your computer with a screen sharing program unless you initiated the service call or have a previous relationship with the company.
- Never give out bank account numbers or routing numbers over the phone, unless you initiated the call. Most banks will ask for debit card numbers or pin numbers for verification.