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Woman lost last 100 dollars after wired her to crooks claiming to have kidnapped her cousin – CBS Chicago

By on November 11, 2021 0

CHICAGO (CBS) – Suppose you get a call saying that a drug cartel kidnapped your cousin – and to save her you have to send money, right away.

What would you do?

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It’s actually a scary scam that cost a Chicago woman dearly. CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas unraveled what happened.

Helping the family is second nature to Helen Presley.

“I am a home help for my grandmother,” Presley said.

So when she got a call saying her cousin had been kidnapped, she put her housework on hiatus at her grandmother’s.

“They said, ‘Don’t call anyone else. Don’t do anything, because if you do, we’ll assault, sexually assault your cousin, ”Presley said.

A man told Presley to go to the nearest Western Union and transfer thousands of dollars to someone in Mexico, where his alleged cartel was based. But Presley only works part-time and doesn’t have thousands of dollars.

“I was completely terrified,” Presley said. “I didn’t know what to do other than follow their instructions, because I didn’t want her to hurt him.”

Instead, she sent him the last 100 dollars. It was money she was saving to repair damage to her car from a recent storm.

She was sitting in the same car waiting for the kidnappers to drop off her cousin at a Walgreens. They never did – because they never had his cousin in the first place.

“I waited about an hour before calling my cousin – and she said she was fine,” Presley said. “So I realized it was a scam.”

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Then she contacted Western Union and learned that she could not get a refund.

“It’s heartbreaking, but it’s not surprising,” said Teresa Murray, a consumer watchdog with the US Public Interest Research Group.

McNicholas asked Murray what we can tell people to avoid these kinds of scams.

“Never, ever pay someone who calls you on the phone with gift cards, or a wire transfer, or Bitcoin, or anything like that,” Murray said.

But here’s where the water gets cloudy.

Presley said the call was so compelling because when she first picked up, she thought she was talking to her cousin. She heard a woman with a similar voice who even knew her cousin’s name before the man picked up the phone.

“They also had my phone number, so I felt like it was someone who maybe knew me or knew my family,” Presley said.

And it’s a thought she can’t erase from her mind.

Our expert tells us that if you get a call like this, just hang up and call the family member directly.

We asked Western Union to comment, but they never did.

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On its website, the money giant describes over 20 scams and offers a quiz to help you avoid such scams.