Elderly couple reports online “pop-up” scam to authorities

GENESEE COUNTY — An elderly Genesee County couple narrowly escaped becoming victims of an online “pop-up” scam, thanks to the quick actions of their local bank.

During a press briefing on Sept. 2, Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said that a 67-year-old woman and her 69-year-old husband contacted his department’s elder abuse line to report a high-end financial scam that they had nearly fallen prey to.

Several weeks ago, the woman had been checking her online Chase Bank account when a pop-up message appeared on her screen, saying that her account had been compromised and that she needed to click on the pop-up to resolve the issue.

In response, the woman clicked on the pop-up and contacted Chase Bank to try to fix her account.

“For the next 10 hours, she worked with the bank in order to try to navigate through her account so she could fix her account,” Swanson said. “All the while, a person in another country was working through her account to transfer money from her real Chase account into a phantom account across the ocean.”

Ten hours after receiving the first notice, the woman received another pop-up from the scammers, who said that her account had been frozen. In order to “unfreeze” the account, she had to go to the bank and transfer the money to another account.

However, the woman received an account number that happened to lead to a wire transfer account set up by the scammers.

Swanson said the woman and her husband went to their local Chase bank branch to make a transfer of $24,000— not realizing that they were transferring the money to the scammers’ account. That’s when a bank employee noticed something wasn’t right and immediately contacted the couple.

The couple quickly returned to the bank, where staff were able to stop the last step of the transfer from happening and prevent the money from being sent to the overseas account.

Swanson warned residents to be on the lookout for fake account verification pop-ups, especially during the upcoming holiday shopping season.

“If you have any pop-up screens that come up about account verification that you’re not 100 percent sure on, then you should call that branch and/or organization firsthand,” he said. “Go there and validate it and see if it’s really an account that has been compromised.”

To report an incident of fraud, contact the Genesee County Sheriff’s Consumer Protection and Fraud Division at 810-341-5923. Elderly people who have been victims of a scam can also contact the county sheriff’s Elder Abuse Hotline at 810-257-3422.