Last week, a Maui woman who didn’t want us to use her name says she received a phone call from a stranger.
The man told her he was calling on behalf of a tech support company that was going out of business.
He said he needed to refund her $2,100 which could only be done online.
The woman agreed, in large part because she had done business with a company with the same name three years ago.
“Then without my permission, they somehow got into my computer, took control of it, and started typing whatever they wanted,” she told KHON2.
The scammer managed to install a program on the woman’s computer where she could input the $2,100 refund amount.
She says she inputted the number correctly, but a total of $12,000 appeared on the screen instead.
“I told them I had to change that number. They said it had already been transferred into my bank account, and that I would have to pay them back,” she said.
The only way she could do that was by buying gift cards to stores like Target.
So the woman did, initially purchasing two gift cards for $2,000 and a third for $1,000.
The woman gave out the gift card numbers, but made a mistake on one of them, forcing the scammer to call back at 1 a.m.
“However, by the following day, my husband had become very suspicious of what they were doing and we heard on the radio that there were similar kinds of scams going on,” she said.
So the couple went to Target and managed to cancel one of the cards.
They also learned the scammer was trying to use the second card at several stores in Van Nuys, Calif., but was turned away.
The third card, valued at $1,000, had been emptied.
The woman says she’s upset at herself for not recognizing that it was a scam, but she’s grateful to Target, who helped her get most of her money back.
Jason Kama, Hawaii Better Business Bureau’s director of marketing, says if it weren’t for the woman’s husband, the scammers could have gotten away with a lot more money.
“Luckily, she was able to. That moment came quick enough for her to go back to the store and get those other two cards stopped,” he said. “Just taking the time to think it through, maybe ask a friend, ask a family member, ‘What do they think about a situation like this?'”
The Better Business Bureau says if you get an unexpected call from someone who claims to be from tech support, hang up.
If a pop-up window appears on your computer instructing you to call a phone number in order to resolve a problem, ignore it.
If you are concerned about your computer, you can find reputable tech support companies by going to the Hawaii Better Business Bureau’s website to find an accredited business.
If you have a consumer concern or are interested in becoming an Action Line volunteer, call 591-0222 weekdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.