RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Intimidation and isolation were two techniques used by scammers during a six-hour ordeal to steal thousands of dollars from an Apex woman.
The victim wants to tell her story to expose how it was done so others won’t be tricked the way she was -losing $6,000 she knows she will never get back.
It began with an intimidating phone call Dee Johnson received.
The voice on the other end told her she missed federal grand jury duty and cops were coming to get her.
Johnson said the scammer told her, “We’ll have to come to your house and put you in handcuffs and take you to jail.”
“I freaked out,” she said.
The scammer told Johnson a certified letter notifying her about the date of the federal grand jury duty was sent to her which she signed for.
She told the scammer that was impossible, so he offered a solution.
“All I needed to do was come down to the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and sign some affidavits saying I never received the notice,” Johnson said.
The scammer warned her to stay on the phone with him as she drove to the sheriff’s office because if she hung up, they would arrest her for fleeing.
The hook was now set.
As she was driving, the scammer told her before she could go to the sheriff’s office there was another matter.
That was when the trap was sprung.
“He said I needed to go pay the fine,” Johnson recalled.
The scammer then cited some phony failure to appear and contempt of court citation numbers. He told her to pay with Money Pack debit cards.
“I said, ‘I can’t believe they would take gift cards,'” said Johnson. “He said, ‘Ma’am everybody pays this way in court.'”
The scammers first sent her to a Sheetz in Apex to get $1,500 worth of cards but that was not the end of it.
“I had to go get another one and it just got worse from there,” she said.
For the next six hours, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., the scanner kept her running to different Sheetz stores buying more and more gift cards until she spent $6,000.
The whole time the scammer was on the phone with her, getting Johnson to give him the numbers of the cards so he could upload them and obtain the money supposedly for “the U.S. Treasury.”
“They said they were watching me at every moment,” she said. “It was terrible.”
The scammers told her not to call or text anyone because she was under a “federal gag order.”
They also told her not to go to the sheriff’s office until the fines were lifted, or she would be jailed.
Although the Money Pack has a warning on the back of the card about scammers using them to defraud people, Johnson was too rattled to notice it.
“I was nervous and wasn’t thinking,” she said. “I didn’t look at the card. I was like, ‘OK this has to be paid.'”
By the time she pulled up to the sheriff’s office, it was closed and she slowly realized she had been scammed.
Johnson said she learned three lessons that she wants to pass on.
- Never pay anything via a money card
- Verify the caller before taking any other action
- Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t sound right hang up.
She said she filed a fraud report with the police as well as Money Pack, but she says they told her the $6,000 in cash is gone and untraceable.