New computer scam costs woman $20,000

YONKERS, Westchester County (WABC) -- An invasive new scam involves hackers gaining access to personal computers -- and computers' cameras.

A Westchester woman was targeted by scammers who claimed to work for Microsoft. Police in Yonkers said they hacked into her laptop, and then, for the next 48 hours, ordered her to send them thousands of dollars.

As the mother of a police officer and wife of a security guard at Madison Square Garden, Jean Reilly said she was browbeating herself, in hindsight, for not seeing this swindle clearly.

Reilly said she now feels "used, abused, stupid and gullible."

She was conned into sending $10,000 in gift cards, not once, but twice to scammers.

"Especially lately we've seen a proliferation in cell phone calls and spam cell phone calls," Yonkers Police Detective Sergeant Dean Politopoulos said.

Politopoulos warned how the one-two punch put a knock out on this senior's savings.

It starts with a simple phone call, which misleadingly displayed "Microsoft from Redlands California" on caller ID.

Somehow, the hackers compromised her laptop and computer's camera. Police said they were either used social engineering or an actual virus to gain access to her computer.

At one point, the suspects were even spying on Reilly's cat through her webcam!

"(The scammers remarked,) 'You have a cute cat.' He was looking through our webcam, yes," Reilly said.

Then came tall tale. The conman said Microsoft owed HER money, more than a grand, for her computer. They told her to punch that amount into her computer.

But the scammer told Reilly that she made a mistake typing in her own phony refund, adding an extra zero to the amount. So the scammer convinced Jean she should re-pay the difference, $10,000, ASAP.
Over the next two days, she was busy buying gift cards to repay the bogus debt.

She spent $10,000 on Google Play, Apple and iTunes cards. The hackers even displayed a spreadsheet for her to type in the numbers and show them the money.

"He asked you to scratch the back and hold it up to the camera," Reilly said.

The scammers didn't stop there. They told Reilly that some of the cards didn't work and convinced her to send another $10,000 through her debit card. The grand total of this scam? $20,000.

"At the end of the day, they all want the same thing," Politopoulos said. "They want your money."

After the $20,000, the scammers asked for a bank transfer, but luckily Jean stopped herself from sending even more of her life savings.

Here's the big takeaway: If you get an unsolicited phone call, hang up. Remember phone numbers can be masked to show anything the callers wants.

If your computer has been hacked, you need to run security software and change all of your password, especially for banking.

And never pay in gift cards for someone claiming you won a prize or a grant.


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