Elderly Woman Loses $661,000 in Crypto-Related Tech Support Scam
In the spring of 2021, Marjorie Bloom, a 77-year-old widow and retired federal attorney, was reportedly tricked into transferring $661,000 to a scammer who claimed to be a fraud investigator at PNC Bank, where she had been a customer for many years. According to CNBC, the scammer persuaded Bloom to liquidate her assets, including her savings, stocks, and an annuity, under the guise of protecting her life savings from criminals who had allegedly stolen her personal data.
The scammer told Bloom that her life savings were at risk and convinced her to act quickly and covertly. He even warned her not to discuss the situation with anyone, including her three children. CNBC notes that had she consulted her children, she might have avoided the scam, as her daughter Ester is the deputy managing editor for CNBC’s Make It.
Bloom’s computer apparently displayed a fake Microsoft pop-up warning, prompting her to call a number listed on the screen. She was then connected to a scammer posing as a Microsoft engineer, who transferred her to another scammer claiming to be a PNC Bank fraud investigator. This individual convinced her that her bank account had pending transactions worth $29,000 and that her money needed to be moved immediately.
According to CNBC, citing the FBI, tech support scams have been increasingly targeting older adults. In 2022, older adults lost $588 million to such scams. These scams often involve criminals pretending to be computer technicians from well-known companies, convincing victims to wire money to fraudulent accounts.
CNBC says that scammers often use a technique known as “amygdala hijack,” which triggers strong emotional reactions that overwhelm rational thought. This technique is particularly effective on older adults and was employed to manipulate Bloom into transferring her life savings.
When Bloom realized she had been scammed, she contacted PNC Bank and found out that no such employee existed. CNBC reports that Bloom, who lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, was left emotionally and financially devastated. She had served 42 years as a federal attorney, including roles at the Department of Energy and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Per CNBC’s report, Bloom filed a lawsuit against PNC Bank in May 2022, accusing the bank of ignoring red flags and failing to protect her from financial exploitation. Although a federal judge dismissed the negligence claim, the breach of contract claim was allowed to proceed. The lawsuit was settled in September, but the terms were not disclosed.
CNBC reports that Bloom’s money was wired to an account at the now-defunct Signature Bank in New York. From there, it was transferred to a Coinbase account created using Bloom’s personal information. The money was then converted into cryptocurrency and moved to offshore accounts on Binance.
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