CHICAGO (CBS) — Two stores, 34 gift cards, $17,000 – a suburban shopper told one store’s security that the purchase was for a wedding gift.
Now, she is paying for that fib. As CBS 2’s Lauren Victory reported, the woman was really the victim of a scary scam that left her betrayed and broke.
Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg was the site of a post-Christmas shopping spree that Cynthia DeSimone still regrets months later – and it wasn’t her idea at all.
“Dumb. You do. You feel stupid – because I consider myself pretty smart, you know?” said DeSimone, tearing up as she recapped the frustrating situation that began in January.
A message with audio popped up on her computer while she was online banking. She took a shaky recording of it to show her more tech-savvy relatives.
“Please do not attempt to shut down or restart your computer,” the recording said.
“The video is instructing me, saying, ‘Please call support immediately because you’re compromised,'” said DeSimone – who panicked and called the number on the screen that showed a Microsoft signal beside it.
“It looks real. The logos are there. They answer and they’re very calm,” she explained.
According to DeSimone, the Microsoft impostor told her that hackers had her financial information, but she should head to the nearest mall and buy gift cards to max out the credit cards the scammers had so they couldn’t buy anything.
They urged her to hurry up.
“They’re just so good at making sure you can’t think,” said DeSimone.
DeSimone listened and spent $9,000 at Macy’s and another $8,000 at JCPenney – where security even questioned her unusually large purchase.
“I told them [JCPenney security] exactly what these Microsoft men told me – that [the gift cards] are wedding; for wedding gifts,” DeSimone said.
She left the mall with 34 gift cards worth $17,000, then read all the card numbers and corresponding pins to fake customer support who promised DeSimone the stores would reimburse her.
Of course, that didn’t happen.
“I was robbed, so I don’t want anyone else to feel like this,” she said, getting teary-eyed again.
A quick search for “Microsoft Windows Defender Scam” shows a similar alarming message has popped up for many people in the past year – but not everyone falls as hard as DeSimone.
“I didn’t have any peace,” she said about her reason for doing the interview with CBS 2. As a woman of faith, she feels God may be using her struggle to teach others.
Macy’s and Capital One eventually refunded her $9,000.
Recently, DeSimone, who is on a fixed income, paid off her U.S. Bank bill for the $8,000 charge at JCPenney to avoid getting sent to collections. For months, that store and that bank have refused to give her money back. DeSimone tells us that U.S. Bank told her it can’t give her the money if the vendor doesn’t agree.
She said JCPenney closed her case and found her liable.
“They said you came in and got the product that you wanted,” DeSimone said.
We called the customer support number that popped up on DeSimone’s screen. It was disconnected.
Meanwhile, U.S. Bank said they’re looking into the case.