81-Year-Old NJ Woman Conned Out Of $420K and Could Lose Mortgage-Free House

81-Year-Old NJ Woman Conned Out Of $420K and Could Lose Mortgage-Free House

An 81-year-old New Jersey woman is among more than 31,000 state residents who reported identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission in 2021.

According to NJ.com, Carole Robinson was the victim of a scam in late October 2021, which turned out to be a $420,000 mistake.

The Freehold resident and widow realized she had been conned after receiving a suspicious email about a $499.99 annual subscription fee charged to her Wells Fargo account. She immediately called the number provided to request a refund.

“He said no problem, he could take care of it,” she said of the bogus representative, per nj.com.

“He asked if he could access my computer to remove the file. I said yes, as I have over the years done this with no problem.”

The man accessed Robinson’s bank account, where she held her checking and IRA funds.

She continued: “He asked me to type my name in, and when it came to the refund amount, which was rounded out to $500, it magically became $50,000,” she said. “I was told no problem; we would make a wire transfer to correct the error.”

The scammer warned Robinson not to inform Wells Fargo about the money error because they might think it involved money laundering. He said to let anyone know that the $50,000 amount was to purchase antique furniture.

Soon after that, the scammer presumably tried to block all suspicions of money laundering by opening an account in Robinson’s name with a Cayman Islands-registered cryptocurrency exchange called Binance.

“In retrospect, I see it now — over and over — the error and should have pulled the plug,” she said. “I swear, if I was watching this as a movie, I would be yelling at the screen.”

Then, Robinson spent the next few days approving three separate transactions from her IRA. It began with $49,500, then $39,500, and then $221,000. When asked, she told them exactly what the scammer had told her. She said she bought antique furniture.

The next target was her house. The scammers opened a home equity line of credit in Robinson’s name at a different bank. They wiped her out of $99,500 against her mortgage-free house.

Robinson is working tirelessly to get her money back. She has filed complaints with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the police, and local lawmakers, but justice has not prevailed.

“I feel embarrassed, victimized, but not a victim,” she said.

The $320,000 stolen from the Wells Fargo checking account and IRA doesn’t appear to be resolved. Wells Fargo is urging the public to take caution.

“If someone asks you to wire money and directs you to lie to your bank about why you are sending the money, it is a red flag that you are being scammed,” Wells Fargo advises. “Don’t be afraid to end communication with the person who contacted you and take time to research what you can do.”

Robinson is still dealing with the aftermath.

“I am the widow of an airline pilot, so until we have landed and I have my luggage, the trip isn’t over,” Robinson said. “The thieves were really good. It is 10 months, and still fighting.”