ST. FRANCIS — If you have received an email saying you renewed an expensive membership to a company you weren't familiar with, you'd likely want to cancel it.
A St. Francis man followed instructions to do that but ended up losing four $4,000 in the process.
The man who fell victim to this scam didn't want to be identified.
Detective Zachary Gilden of St. Francis Police worked on the case and told the I-Team the criminals lured the man in, instructing him to call a number to cancel the alleged membership renewal.
The man did that because he wanted his money back. It was a $487.71 membership renewal for "Norton VPN 360."
"I think they're combining a couple of services together. Norton is an anti-virus and they do sell a VPN which does help with online protection," Detective Gilden explained.
Detective Gilden says what made the scheme seem believable to the victim was that before he called the criminals, he checked his BMO Harris Bank Account and observed what appeared to be a $487.71 payment taken from his account.
Once on the phone with the criminals, he gave them remote access to his computer. Detective Gilden says the criminals asked the man to open his online bank account.
"He described it as this person was opening and closing windows very quickly on his computer and he couldn't really tell what was happening," explained Detective Gilden.
Instead of just giving the man the exact refund, the person on the line told him he would make it $500, a good gesture for all of his troubles.
According to the court documents, "before the 'refund' was complete, the subject entered an extra '0' to the refund, making it a $5,000 refund."
He told the man it was a mistake and that he would lose his job if the man didn't help him.
Court documents state, he told the man "the only way to help him undo the mistaken refund was by purchasing Target, Best Buy, and/or Walmart gift cards and providing the subject with the numbers."
"He played at the guy's heartstrings. He didn't want a guy to lose his job right in front of him from a mistake," said Detective Gilden.
Surveillance photos show different suspects walking out of stores after allegedly redeeming gift cards out of state within hours of the victim purchasing them. Detective Gilden handed the case over to those agencies.
"They bought a large amount of Apple products and some Nintendo products as well," he said.
Detective Gilden says looking back, they do not believe that the initial $487.71 deduction actually left the victim's bank account, and are unsure how the suspects made it appear that way.
He says these schemes are evolving, and this is a reminder to never pay someone with a gift card and to be suspicious if anyone asks for remote access to your computer.
"He was able to catch two of those gift cards in time before they were actually used. So he froze them and was able to get that money back," he said.
Detective Gilden says the man did recover some of his money, but not all. He's out $4,000 all because he tried to get back the nearly $500 he thought he lost.
"He told me he kind of got the tunnel vision of wanting to get his money back which I can't blame him," Detective Gilden said.