This first-person piece was written by Miriam Edelson, who lives in Toronto. For more information about CBC’s first-person stories, see the FAQ.
I’ve never told this story to anyone out of shame. Only my partner knows.
One afternoon the phone rang. It was a dreary autumn day and I was alone in the house. The caller seemed to have a lot of information about me. In an authoritative voice, he said he knew there had been a recent fraudulent charge on my VISA credit card and that I was retired. He revealed that there was a problem with my Social Security number: criminals had gotten their hands on it and my identity was in serious jeopardy.
I tried to ask questions but he insisted. To solve the problem, he said, I had to deposit $1,500 into a supermarket’s Bitcoin ATM. I had heard of Bitcoin but knew nothing about such a machine.
There was great urgency in his voice and he warned me not to tell anyone about our conversation. Not even my partner, who came home just as I scurried out the door on my mission. He asked where I was going, but I didn’t want to stop or give him details. I was afraid of revealing something – the man on the phone had so persistently stressed the need for secrecy.
I stopped at an ATM not far from my home and withdrew the money. I then drove to the supermarket in another area and asked the clerk where I could find the Bitcoin ATM. With shaking hands, I figured out how to insert the $100 bills into the machine.
A few minutes later, as I was back in my car, I received another call from the man. He said he needed another $6,000 to be deposited into the Bitcoin ATM at the same location. I questioned him, even though I wasn’t completely out of my mind, and he made it sound like a “life or death” situation again. That was the only way out.
So I went to my bank where the money was given to me in cash, no questions asked. I drove back to the supermarket and put the mountain of banknotes into the Bitcoin machine. I felt numb.
I went back to my car and the man called me again. He told me to go home and not tell anyone. He said he would deliver a refund and a new social security card to my house the next day.
At this point I was completely exhausted. When I got home I told my partner what was going on. He was at first incredulous and then angry that I hadn’t told him because otherwise he would have stopped me from even making the first deposit. He told me it was a scam and the money was gone – no one would issue a refund. I started crying and felt quite embarrassed. Deeply ashamed.
That afternoon I reported these activities to the police and gave them as much information as possible. They said this was a common scam among thieves and that the same criminals might try to get more money out of me in the next few months now that they knew I had fallen for this scam.
I reported the incident to my bank and made arrangements at the branch for them to question me if I ever attempted to withdraw that amount of cash again. They also told me to register with consumer credit reporting agencies to monitor for further suspicious activity. Everyone I spoke to seemed to think I got off lightly in terms of the amount I lost. But it didn’t feel like that to me. I’m a writer living on a fixed income and this scam took a significant portion of my savings.
A police officer contacted me once to get more information, but nothing ever came of it. I still regularly receive several fraudulent emails and text messages which I delete and now only answer the phone if I recognize the number. I can no longer be the trusting person I was.
Two years later I just shake my head. I must have been incredibly vulnerable as I fell for this man’s frightening but very convincing statement. How could I believe such nonsense?
In reality, when the call came, I was in the middle of a brutal episode of anxiety and depression and clearly couldn’t function at full capacity. But there is a lesson here. Scams can happen to anyone and the shame you feel doesn’t stop the scammers from winning. That’s why I decide to tell what happened to me.
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Source : www.cbc.ca