'Geek Squad' email scam targets vulnerable seniors

Ron Hurtibise, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Business News

The Boynton Beach retiree also was directed to download software that gave the scammers access to her computer. Although the original email identified its source as Geek Squad, the scammers began identifying themselves as from Microsoft, for reasons she doesn’t remember.

Someone who said his name was Shawn Cooper told her she needed to log in to her bank account so “Microsoft” could refund her $499.99 in two installments — one for $240 and another for $260.

“I logged into my account and the procedure began,” she wrote in a complaint to the Florida Attorney General’s Office. “I was in my bank account and so was this other person from Microsoft. He asked me to enter $240 and our cursors were very close together [on the screen] and $24,000 was entered wrongfully into my checking account. The man from Microsoft started screaming ‘no, no, no’ and I tried to delete the zeroes and it wouldn’t allow me to do it.”

After the man hung up, she sat in front of her computer for an hour, “extremely nervous,” worrying about how to return $24,000 she was told was deposited by mistake. Later, a local detective told her the scammers likely showed her a false screen to convince her that the money had been transferred to her account.

About an hour later, “I called that same number back and said that I wanted Microsoft’s money out of my bank account and I just wanted my $499.99 refunded to me.”

‘They scared the crap out of me’


Unease with having money that didn’t belong to them set up both victims for the horror stories that followed.

At the other ends of their cellphones were slick-sounding men who said the only way they could make things right was to head out to retail stores and start buying gift cards.

Despite the $1,000 Zelle transfer, Belz was told she needed to send more money to return the overpayment and get her $392.95 back. She was told to go to Best Buy and purchase gift cards for $200 and $500, then go to Walmart and buy another $200 gift card. At the scammers’ direction, she scratched off the film that hid the cards’ PIN numbers and read the numbers over the phone — enabling them to instantly transfer the value of the gift cards to themselves.

Belz lost $1,900. But the Boynton Beach victim’s scammers weren’t about to be satisfied with such a small payday.


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