I’ve never told anyone this story because of the shame I feel. Only my partner knows.
One afternoon, the telephone rang. It was a dreary fall day and I was alone in the house. The caller seemed to have a great deal of information about me. In an authoritative voice he said he knew there had been a fraudulent charge recently on my VISA credit card and that I was retired. He revealed that there was some problem with my social insurance number: criminals had gotten a hold of it and my identity was seriously compromised.
I tried to ask questions, but he was insistent. To fix matters, he said, I needed to deposit $1,500 in the Bitcoin machine at a convenience store. I had heard of Bitcoin but knew nothing about such a machine.
His voice projected immense urgency and he warned me not to tell anyone about our conversation. Not even my partner, who happened to arrive home just as I was scurrying out the door on my mission. He asked where I was headed but I wouldn’t stop nor give him any details. I was scared to spill the beans — the man on the telephone had been so insistent about the need for secrecy.
I pulled over at an ATM machine not far from my home and withdrew the money. I then drove to the location of the convenience store in another neighbourhood and asked the clerk where I could find the Bitcoin machine. Hands shaking, I figured out how to feed the $100 bills into the machine.
Back in my car a few minutes later, I received another phone call from the man. He said he needed $6,000 more to be deposited into the Bitcoin machine at the same venue. I questioned him, not having entirely lost my wits, and he again made it sound like a “life or death” situation. This was the only way out.
So I went to my bank where I was given the money in cash, no questions asked. I drove back to the convenience store and fed the mound of bills into the Bitcoin machine. I felt numb.
I returned to my car and the man called me again. He told me to go home and tell no one. He said that he’d bring a reimbursement and a new social insurance card to my home the next day.
By this time, I was completely frazzled. When I got home, I told my partner what was happening. He was incredulous at first and then livid that I hadn’t told him because he would have stopped me from making even the first deposit. He told me it was a scam and that the money was gone — nobody would be bringing a reimbursement. I started to cry and felt quite embarrassed. Deeply ashamed.
That afternoon I reported these activities to the police, giving them as much information as I could. They said this was a common scam among thieves and that the same criminals might try to get more money out of me in the next several months, now that they knew I had fallen for this one.
I reported the incident to my bank and made arrangements at the branch for them to question me if I tried to withdraw that amount of cash ever again. They also told me to register with consumer credit reporting agencies as a way to monitor further suspicious activity. Everyone I spoke to seemed to think I got off lightly in terms of the amount lost. But it didn’t feel that way to me. I am a writer living on a fixed income and this scam took a significant chunk from my savings.
A police detective did follow up with me once to get more information but nothing ever came of it. I still regularly receive several fraudulent emails and texts, which I erase, and now only answer the phone if I recognize the number. I can no longer be the trusting individual I was.
Two years later, I just shake my head. I must have been incredibly vulnerable to have fallen for the man’s frightening but very compelling pitch. How could I have believed such malarkey?
In reality, when the call came, I’d been smack dab in the middle of a brutal anxiety and depression episode, and evidently not functioning with a full deck. But there’s a lesson here. Scams can happen to anyone and the shame one feels does nothing to stop the scam artists from winning. That’s why I choose to share what happened to me.
This article was originally sourced from www.CBCNews.ca