MESA, Ariz. - Call 12 For Action has a warning about a scam that’s been circulating for years, but is still ripping people off.
It’s called the Microsoft Tech scam. And one of it’s victims is an elderly Mesa woman, Bonnie Reno.
“I got the phone call from Microsoft that said I had been hacked and they wanted to get into my computer and take care of it for me,” Reno told 12 News about the incident which happened in December of 2016.
She was paying for Microsoft's technical support, so she thought the call was truly from Microsoft. But it wasn't.
Instead, it was a scammer. The man had a thick Middle Eastern accent and promised to fix the hack that never happened in the first place. The next day he called back and said Reno’s computer had been hacked yet again. But this time, it would cost thousands of dollars to fix.
“He had a gift of gab and he was calling me grandma...well let's do this and let's do that. We'll take care of it,” Reno said the scammer told her. “They have a plan and they're smooth talkers.”
That plan was specific -- for Reno to go to Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, where she banked, on three different days. She was told to make three withdrawals -- for $2,400, $3,000 and $5,000. Then the scammer instructed her to go to Walmart and make three separate wire transfers to Morocco – all of which Reno did.
“I should have been wiser, but I wasn't,” Reno said. “I just, go along fat, dumb and happy and think everything is OK.”
By the time Reno realized she'd been ripped off, it was too late. The money had vanished and the wire couldn't be reversed.
Bonnie Reno certainly isn't alone. The so-called Microsoft Tech Scam has been sent to two out of every three people. Microsoft reports in the last three years, 40,000 people admit they've fallen for it and lost more than $25 million.
And if you think the scam only targets the elderly -- think again. Microsoft, which clearly warns users about the scam on its website, says the age group most likely to lose money to this scam is young people who are 25 to 34 years old.
“The people that are perpetrating these frauds -- they're good,” said Desert Schools Federal Credit Union Vice President of Operations Tom Marlowe. “They're con artists. There's a reason why they're called con artists. They have a talent. They ingratiate themselves. They're very, very believable.”
Marlowe said, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, like other financial institutions, trains employees to look out for customers who are being scammed.
Inside local branches, tellers look for customers who are withdrawing large amounts of money and seem to be in distress, following a very specific set of instructions or who admit they're wiring money internationally for a family member who is supposedly in jail.
“It is their money, they can do with it as they please,” Marlowe said. “But again, if we see those red flags we try to coach the member to make sure everything is on the up and up.”
The credit union said Reno's withdrawals didn't raise any red flags, so there was no saving her stolen savings.
“I just felt really abused, so to speak, or violated in what had happened,” Reno said.
Now, Reno's back on her computer, hoping her story protects people from falling from the so-called Microsoft Tech Scam.
Microsoft says it does not e-mail or call customers asking for money or personal information. And if you get a call, email or pop-up window that demands this information, hang up or close it, then call Microsoft directly.
If you feel like you've been the victim of a scam or have a consumer complaint, get in touch with Call 12 For Action and our team of investigators will get to work for you.