Rochester couple out more than $300K, phone scams become more "sophisticated"

(ABC 6 News) – A Rochester couple is out more than $300,000 after a phone scam, and police say, they most likely will not get any of that money back.

The couple in their late ’60s, transferred $303,000 to scammers between July and Aug. It all started when their computer froze up, and a message on the screen prompted them to call, what they thought, was Microsoft.

However, instead it was scammers who said they were with the U.S. Marshal’s office and began threatening the couple. Claiming their phones were wiretapped and people were listening in on their conversations, and their accounts had been breached. They even claimed that $21,000 was at risk "due to child porn."

"I’m guessing they just put a whole lot of fear into these people, which caused them to wire the suspect money on 4 different occasions," said Capt. Casey Moilanen with the Rochester Police Department.

Tactics like spoofing phone numbers, pretending to be calling from the bank, a utility company or even the police, the ploys are getting more difficult to separate real from fake.

Many people have been getting these kinds of spam calls and they have to use their own judgement when deciphering if it is real.

"I’m suspicious when I ask who’s calling and who do you want, and they’re hesitant. That’s a clue for me," said Norma Knapp, a long-time visitor of Rochester.

People of all ages are falling victim to these scams.

Last Friday, an 18-year-old employee at Once Upon a Child in Rochester received a call from a scammer pretending to be a Rochester Police Detective. They even gave a fake badge number and case number. The caller instructed her to purchase two $500 PayPal gift cards. She had sent them one of those gift cards before her mother intervened and caught onto the scam.

In another instance, an Austin woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, almost got scammed by someone claiming to be from Austin Public Utilities. Luckily, she caught on before it was too late.

"I said well I just pay everything by check, I’m old school. He says well you have a charge card though? I was like why do you need a charge card if you already have my account number and everything and he hung up on me. I’m pretty sure that was a really good scam," she said.

Many people say they’re concerned for friends and family.

"I’m at the age where I have literally hundreds and hundreds of friends this age, and they’re gullible and curious and of course they’re so vulnerable. And some of them have money," Knapp said.

Here are some general tips on how to avoid a scam:

· Take steps to block unwanted calls or texts.

· Resist the pressure to act immediately. (Legitimate businesses will give you time to make a decision).

· Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service.

· Stop and talk to someone you trust. (Talking about what happened could help you realize it’s a scam)