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2020-12-18 20:28:08

We told you Wednesday about a scam involving someone posing as an Amazon Prime representative. Here’s some information about another scam deputies are investigating involving criminals posing as agents with the National Institutes of Health. Although the scams are similar, there’s enough varying information here we thought it was worth it’s own post.

Weld Sheriff’s Office warning residents about sophisticated scammers: Pt. 2

The Weld County Sheriff’s Office is warning the public about a pair of sophisticated scams that have already victimized two residents.

In both incidents, the scammers were able to prey on their victims by using their online activity against them.

The second incident occurred Saturday, Nov. 28, when deputies spoke with a woman who had been scammed out of $1,300 in Google Play gift cards. The woman told deputies she had visited www.nih.gov, the National Institutes of Health website, to apply for a grant because she knew she would soon lose her job due to COVID-19. While filling out the application online, the woman provided her bank account information, where she worked and the number of hours she worked each week.

The woman was later contacted by phone by a “Robert William” who provided his NIH badge number and said her grant application had been approved. All the woman needed to do was pay a small $4,000 processing fee. Since the Department of Revenue was closed due to the pandemic, Robert told the woman she could pay the fee in Google Play gift cards.

But before they could proceed, Robert put the woman on hold to speak to his supervisor, “David William,” to see if he could have the processing fee waived. When he was back on the line, Robert told the woman he had good news that her processing fee had been greatly reduced to $1,300.

The woman was transferred to “Henry Carter” who also provided his agency badge number. Henry stayed on the phone with the woman while she drove to a local store and purchased two $500 and one $300 Google Play gift cards.

After the woman read the numbers on the gift cards, Henry said he wanted more money. The woman then realized something was off and hung up the phone before losing more of her money.

Several hours later, “Carter” called the woman back and “swore on his kids” he wasn’t involved in a scam. When the woman again refused to buy more gift cards, “Carter” said it didn’t matter because he already knew her bank account number. The woman then called her bank, closed her account and canceled all her credit cards.

Given the timing of the scammer’s call, deputies think it’s possible the woman visited a phishing site built to look like www.nih.gov to take advantage of people seeking unemployment grants due to the pandemic. However, it’s more likely the woman’s computer or smartphone had been infected with some type of spyware since the scammers knew she had recently applied for the grant.

The scammers increased their chances of success by using that information against the woman. They also provided her with identification numbers to sound more legitimate, put her on hold to greatly reduce the fee and transferred her to accomplices in on the scam to make it appear as though she was speaking with representatives from a real government agency.

Below are some tips to avoid being a victim of a scam like this one:
• First and foremost, it’s almost always a scam if someone says you can use gift cards to pay a debt, processing fee or avoid going to jail on a warrant.
• If you find yourself on the phone with a suspected scammer, collect as much information as you can without giving out any of your personal information.
• When in doubt, hang up and call the company, agency or organization directly to verify the caller’s information.
• Avoid using unsecure public Wi-Fi unless you have installed a virtual private network (VPN) on your computer, smartphone and other devices.
• Change passwords often.
• Be wary of click-throughs in emails and text messages. If it seems suspect, delete the message immediately.
• Make sure you have downloaded the most up-to-date operating system for your devices, as software developers are constantly updating protections to thwart the latest hacking schemes.

Anyone with information regarding this or any other crime is asked to call the Weld County Sheriff’s Office at (970) 356-4015 or Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Tips can also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website at
www.crimeshurt.com. Those submitting tips through Crime Stoppers that lead to the arrest and filing of charges on a suspect(s) may be eligible for a cash reward.