Newton’s grandmother defrauded of $20,000, used Bitcoin ATMs to send money

Newton’s grandmother defrauded of ,000, used Bitcoin ATMs to send money

NEWTON – It’s a phone call a Newton grandmother would give anything to go back and not answer. It happened last week; the caller said he was a federal police officer and he feared she was a victim of identity theft.

“He said, ‘Okay, are you ready to go to the bank?’ I said yes,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified. “He spelled his name for me and he actually had me put his phone number into Google. It took me directly to the US Marshals Service website.”

Elsewhere on the US Marshals Service website itself, there is a warning for this exact scam.

Distracted by the phone call, the Newton victim did not dig. And unlike other popular schemes, there was no rush, and no threatening tone. The caller calmly offered options to move her money temporarily until a new social security number could be issued.

She told WBZ that she began to fail her, when the man pretended to help her. “Then you’re going to go and use the money to buy Bitcoin. It goes into a wallet that’s strictly yours. Your name is on it; it’s your money,” she recalled him advising her, so her savings would not be unavailable on a frozen account.

Over the next 24 hours, the woman visited four local Citizens Bank branches and withdrew $30,000 in cash. She said no one ever asked her.

“The teller said, ‘We don’t have that kind of money. The best we can do is give you $9,000 and small bills. He called and found out the branch in Needham could give me $10,000,'” the woman recalled.

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She spent hours on the phone with her husband while driving to banks in Newton Centre, Needham, Chestnut Hill and Newtonville. She used Bitcoin ATMs in Waltham and Newton, and after sending the first $20,000, drove to her law office. “I wasn’t two sentences into the story when he said it was a scam,” she recalled.

Citizens Bank wrote in a statement: “We are sorry to hear that one of our customers may have been the victim of a scam … we work closely with law enforcement when incidents occur and provide training to our colleagues to help detect such incidents .”

Back in February WBZ reported on a foiled scheme in Norwood; a whistleblower at Rockland Trust called the police, concerned about a senior customer trying to withdraw $9,000. That victim kept his money, but personal finance experts say it’s a slippery slope.

“Do we really want bank tellers to screen us and ask how much money? What are you going to use this money for? Is this a legitimate purpose? I think we’re invading privacy at this point,” said Professor Jay Zagorsky of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business .

Newton police are investigating, but this victim’s $20,000 is long gone.

“I’m just pulling myself together now. It was just a terrible ordeal. This can happen to you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. It doesn’t matter how skeptical you are. You can get caught. They’re very good at that they do,” the victim said.

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