North Aurora Police confirm they are investigating one of the largest imposter scams they have ever seen after a senior resident was robbed of nearly $300,000.
Henriette Schmule,74, says she got a call in mid-May that was was both scary and convincing. She says that the person on the other end of the phone said that he was a federal agent with the Department of Homeland security.
“I had his name and his badge,” she said. “He told me there was a warrant out for my arrest for money laundering and drug trafficking…I kept saying – 'I didn’t do it – I didn’t do it,' and he says 'yeah I know. I think you are a victim of identity theft.' He had all these documents with my name on them.”
Schmule says the man told her he could help. He told her he had a plan to protect her assets and keep her out of jail.
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“We were going to put everything into another savings account, with a new Social Security number,” Schmule said.
She says the first transaction happened around May 18. That’s when she took money out of her savings account to purchase Bitcoin.
She says more transactions would follow, with the man calling and texting her to get more Bitcoin, cash advances and gift cards.
Then the last week of June, the calls stopped.
“My last call was on the 30th of June,” she said. “He told me he was on vacation and everything would be taken care of next week.”
Soon, the texts stopped, too. The number is now disconnected.
“ I said 'oh my God I have been scammed,'” she said “I’m a fool. I admit it. I should have known better – I was in the credit industry.”
Now, her life savings and retirement money are gone, with losses totaling up to nearly $300,000, her husband says.
“It has been a nightmare,” said Stan Davis. “This has been a month and half from hell. I’m trying to be supportive husband. I don’t want to brow beat her and call her all kind of names. We have been married for almost 34 years.She was afraid of her safety and security. She was trying to protect her family”
The couple says their daughter urged them to come forward and share their hardship – to help others.
“Watch out for these people – they don’t care – and will use whatever possible to get what they want,” Davis said.
Authorities urge residents to call police if they or their loved ones get a suspicious call from someone pretending to be from a government agency, and also issued some reminders of what government agencies will, and will not, do.
“Don’t just trust somebody on the phone,” said North Aurora Deputy Chief Scott Buziecki. “Government agencies or bill collectors don’t take payment via Bitcoin and they don’t threaten arrest if you don’t pay them. Seniors are trusting and scammers take advantage of that. The victim had several hundred thousand dollars, and now she has lost it."