PORTLAND, Ore. - A scammer held a woman hostage on her cell phone telling her that if she hung up, she would go to jail.
Cindy Batten lost $600 during that phone call. And while she admits she missed some of the warning signs, the con artist was a professional who used her personal information, persuasion and a ticking clock to convince her that he was legitimate.
It all started when she got a call from a supposed debt collector who gave her an immediate deadline and told her that if she hung up, she would end up on the wrong side of the law.
"He said if you don't make payment arrangements with us right now to pay the debt, then someone will show up at your place of business to arrest you," Batten said.
Batten was having some financial troubles and had recently declared bankruptcy. She was so frazzled that she walked down the hall to her boss and asked for an advance.
With the scammer still on the phone, she drove to her bank to cash the check and then to the nearest Walgreens. The caller told Batten to buy two pre-paid cash cards for a total of $600 and scratch off the back. She then gave him the numbers.
When it was all said and done and she returned to her office, she did some research online and realized that she had been had.
"That's money that I haven't even received yet," she said. "I got an advance on my next paycheck. I have bills to pay and I didn't have an extra $600 to give someone."
The Warning Signs
- Never be pressured by a deadline. There is always time to stop, take a breath and do some research.
- Police do not arrest people for falling behind on payments. It is nearly always a civil matter.
- If a creditor wants you to pay with a pre-paid cash card, don't!