On Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 5:04 p.m., Riverside Police Department received a call from a 74 year old Riverside resident stating that she believed she was the victim of a theft by deception and was scammed out of thousands of dollars.
It was learned during investigation that the victim received an email on Facebook advising her that she had been hacked, all her personal information on her computer had been exposed, and she should call a specific phone number to resolve the issue.
The elderly resident called the number and spoke with a male who advised her to purchase four Google Play cards and two Apple gift cards totaling $1,800. (After purchase, scammers typically will ask the victim to read the numbers off the cards which then enables them to turn those into cash or byproducts.)
The scammer then told the victim to stay on the phone as she traveled from store to store to make the purchases. The victim did this and went to Walgreens in Lyons and Jewel in Stickney to buy the cards as the scammer reassured her she was doing the right thing.
Investigating officers contacted Google Play to get the cards canceled, but this was not possible. Detectives later received a call from a "security specialist" who said she would email in two weeks updating them on the case.
At no time did the victim give any personal information to the male on the phone, nor was her computer hacked. This was a complete scam.
Riverside detectives were able to trace the call from the phone number (provided by the victim) and it was out of California. When officers further inquired with different law enforcement agencies, they found that the same number had been used on many fraud complaints in California. The police investigation is ongoing.
Riverside police detectives warn individuals not to respond to these types of fraud. At no time will you receive a Facebook email or any other type of notification saying your computer was hacked. This information is completely fictitious.
Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel stated, “It's deplorable that someone would scam over $1,800 from a 74 year old female living alone. He even stayed on the phone with her as she went from store to store - completely despicable. I also have concerns that the employees at both stores thought there was nothing unusual about these transactions. The stores need to better train their employees to recognize these types of scams.”
Riverside police have filed a complaint on behalf of the victim with the FCC on this scam. Police have also notified family members and senior citizen advocates so that additional assistance can be prearranged for the victim.