84-year-old woman who lost life savings to scammer thought she was 'helping the government'

ByDiane Wilson WTVD logo
Monday, April 3, 2023
NC woman who lost life savings in imposter scam is now warning others
The 84-year-old tells ABC11 Troubleshooter she's embarrassed and devastated after losing her life savings. And, now she's breaking her silence to warn others.

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A scammer used fear and intimidation to steal thousands of dollars from an 84-year-old North Carolina woman.

She says she gave up her savings to "help the government," and now she's using her voice to help you.

"The whole time I kept telling him, 'I know you're scamming me. I know you're scamming me,'" says Barbara, of Raleigh, who said despite the red flags going off, it wasn't enough for her to stop a scammer. She adds, "He had gotten so into my head and had me scared, had me so confused."

Barbara asked us not to use her last name or show her face because she fears scammers will target her again, got caught up in what's known as an imposter scam.

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"He said he was with the Federal Trade Commission and the reason he was calling me was because they were trying to get these people who were money laundering, using older people," Barbara tells ABC11 Troubleshooter Diane Wilson.

She said the person got her to believe her money was in jeopardy.

"What we want to do is we want to take your money and wash it. We want to clean your money, right now. If you tried to use the money in your account, it's gonna pick up as being dirty money."

The man called her daily, gaining her trust.

"Always thought that scammers will go on to pitch fast and run. He didn't, he did not hit fast. He took his time with everything."

Over two weeks, she says he convinced her to take $7,500 from her bank account and transfer money to him daily.

"The way it was going to end was they had all my money they would run it through the cleaning process, and then there would be local undercover people who would come to my house and bring funds to replace my money."

Barbara said she heard from him only once after she sent all of the money to him.

"He called me when it was over and he said, 'I just want to thank you for all your hard work and helping me get this done.'"

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She never heard from him again and her money was gone. She's so embarrassed and devastated she lost her life savings.

"I don't want that to happen to anybody else because it was so invasive."

Barbara is not alone.

Federal data shows in 2022 that imposter scams were the most commonly reported, with consumers losing $2.6 billion. Scammers often impersonate not only government officials, but also tech support, and well-known businesses. They're always after your money. The key is to not fall for either their scare tactics, or efforts to build your trust, like they did in Barbara's case.