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Suburban Woman Says Her Anxiety Led Her To Fall For A PayPal Scam

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A suburban woman said her severe anxiety caused her to panic and fall for a scam.

The scammers convinced the woman she was fixing a fraudulent transaction, but in reality she was helping them steal tens of thousands of dollars. Now, she has shared her story with CBS 2's Tim McNicholas to warn others.

Joanne Turek was sorting through her old clothes and keepsakes like a leather motorcycle jacket when we met her. She does not want to sell them, but she is trying to pick up extra funds however she can.

"Like I said, I'm not very computer savvy, but I was going to try to do something like Craigslist," she said, "but I wasn't successful."

Not being computer savvy as she said, she was surprised to get an email last month about a $500 PayPal transaction.

Turek said she has severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I was just a wreck," she said.

So she immediately panicked.

"I get worried because I try to be very responsible with our finances, because they're so limited," Turek said.

Turek called the number on the email, and they transferred her to a so-called IT worker, who convinced her they needed remote access to her computer to fix the problems.

"I fell for that, because I don't update my computer like I'm supposed to do," she said.

She said the guy eventually started yelling that she'd screwed up and somehow sent tens of thousands of dollars.

"I was just really intimidated," Turek said. "I was even crying on the phone and he told me to stop crying."

She was told to fix it, she would have to wire-transfer $28,000. She was told she screwed that up too, and she would have to redo it.

"It's just awful, and I can't believe I fell for it," Turek said. "I was so stupid."

The scammers also convinced Turek to log onto her bank account to check the transactions, and she later realized they had taken out cash advances with high interest – digging an even deeper hole.

"At this time in my life, they've just ruined us," Turek said. "We get by, but it's tough."

She noted that she is on disability.

"I'm very grateful to get that, but it's not really enough to live on," Tuerk said.

Turek said she takes the blame for giving the scammers access, and if items like that leather jacket have to go to recoup the losses, so be it.

But she wonders why the Baxter Credit Union allowed the cash advances.

"I just don't know why that went through without any red flags popping up, or Baxter contacting me," Turek said.

It wasn't until later that she realized the original email was not actually from a PayPal email address – a lesson she learned the hard way.

Turek also filed a police report. She is hoping detectives can use the account number or other information she was given to find something out about the scammers.

We reached out to the Baxter Credit Union with several questions. The credit union released the following statement late Thursday:

"Helping members protect themselves against scams like the one Ms. Turek experienced is our #1 priority. Staying aware and taking precautions to secure personal information is something everyone should keep top of mind. BCU has security protocols in place, consistently monitors member accounts for unauthorized activity, and encourages the use of account alerts and our free credit monitoring services. We're grateful that Ms. Turek had the courage to share her story and hope it will encourage others to stay vigilant with all of their personal information."

The credit union also pointed to this article with fraud protection advice.

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