Coronavirus crooks victimize South Florida woman in stimulus check scam

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – A South Florida woman is claiming to be the victim of a scam that cost her all of her savings.

In the end, she told Local 10 News that coronavirus crooks tricked her out of $10,000.

It the latest case of COVID criminals targeting the unemployed, who are waiting for help.

Erica Reyes lost her entire life savings.

“Just a little over $10,000,” she told Local 10 News reporter Jeff Weinsier.

Reyes said that she knew scams like this were out there.

"I got caught up in an emotional moment," she said.

The 32-year-old is currently out of work, as her normal job of setting up concert venues was impacted by coronavirus shutdowns.

She's also been unable to get any answers despite reaching out to officials.

"I have been waiting for help from the government since March," Reyes said.

It was last week when her phone rang, the man on the other end saying he was with the Social Security Administration.

Reyes said it appeared they were returning a recent call, which didn't help the situation.

“Right away my guard went down,” she said. “I’m like, fantastic. Finally, I’m getting help.”

The man on the other end of the phone convinced Reyes her Social Security number had been used in a money laundering scam in Texas, and she was the focus of an investigation.

“They said because of the money laundering case, you have to safeguard your money because it’s going to be frozen, accounts will be frozen,” she said.

Reyes explained that the person went on to say, “If you send it to us, we will send a Social Security officer to your house with the sheriff’s department to give you back a temporary Social Security number and your assets.”

Reyes showed Weinsier receipts from withdrawing $7,500 in cash from the bank and using her credit card to buy thousands of dollars worth of gift cards.

She then FedEx’ed her savings to an address that was provided to her over the phone, and sent snapshots of the gift card numbers to a number provided to her.

She was told, “a Social Security officer will be there to pick it up. It’s one of our locked boxes.”

But it wasn't. It was a FedEx drop box at a Walgreens in Indianapolis.

The phone numbers that were used to call Reyes are no longer in service.

"They were so convincing," she said. "They were so, so believable. This doesn't happen to me."

Local 10 has received emails from several people with the same story. Most just hang up the phone.

Reyes has filed a report with the Broward Sheriff's Office and has reported the incident to the Secret Service.

She called the Walgreens in Indianapolis, and there are surveillance cameras.

The unfortunate reality is that she will never see her savings again.

Remember, the IRS or the Social Security Administration will never call you and ask for money like this.

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