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Pittsburgh-area woman who lost $10,000 in scam shares her story

South Hills woman shares experience of being scammed
South Hills woman shares experience of being scammed 02:46

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Scammers are always looking for new ways to steal your money, and Pittsburgh police are now warning people about a scam that's tricking people into handing over thousands of dollars through Bitcoin.

A South Hills woman shared details of how she fell victim to the scam. She said she wished she listened to her gut. She hopes her story can protect other people from becoming victims too.

"You're so convinced, that you're so, that it's an emergency, it's a matter of life and death, you have to do this," she said.

The woman from Baldwin is so distraught after being tricked by scammers that she didn't want to be identified. She said the scam started when she went to take an online survey that was on the bottom of her grocery store receipt.

"As soon as I hit enter, my screen completely changed and it went stop, stop you are being hacked," she said.

The pop-up message showed a phone number to call. She called the number and a man claiming to be from Microsoft told her to call another number. A second man answered and said her bank account was being compromised by people in China who were going to take out money for child pornography.

"He says they are going to do something and he had me believe that I had to get money out of my account before they could stop it, stop the process," the woman said.

The man knew what bank she uses and told her to go to the bank and withdraw $12,500. He then said to go to a local convenience store to buy Bitcoin.

"He says then go to a Bitcoin and named the one in the South Hills area. ... I got myself ready to go and he said don't hang up. He said I'll call you on your cell phone," she said.

She followed the scammers' demands and stayed on the phone. She went to two different banks and was only able to take out $10,000. She then bought $10,000 worth of Bitcoin. The hackers said the money would be back in her account by the time she got home.

"I got back home and guess what, it wasn't there," she said.

Pittsburgh police are warning people about this scam this week. Officers said two other women in their 70s had the same thing happen to them.

"With the two cases here in the city, they have said both seemed very legitimate. They seemed very sophisticated. The people they spoke with transferred them to other people, and they really thought they were speaking with established companies like Apple and in one case PNC Bank, which is really disturbing," said Cara Cruz, a public information officer with Pittsburgh Public Safety.

Pittsburgh police said in one of the cases, a 70-year-old woman was alerted through her MacBook that the computer had been hacked. She spoke with someone she thought worked for Apple and then was transferred to another person who was reportedly a PNC fraud specialist. She was then told to withdraw $22,000 to buy Bitcoin at a convenience store in the city, police said.

A 72-year-old woman was also similarly targeted. Police said she got an alert on her iPad telling her to call a phone number provided. She talked with someone she thought was from Apple, and after her call was transferred twice, she was told her account was hacked and used for child pornography. Police said she went to a local convenience store and bought $7,000 worth of Bitcoin.

Cruz said scams like this target people's fears.

"If they're asking for money or if they are asking for money with some urgency, those are your red flags. If they're saying someone or something is in danger, red flag," Cruz said.

She also said once that money's gone, it's very difficult to get it back.

The South Hills victim told KDKA-TV that her bank couldn't help her because she willingly gave the money to the scammers. Bitcoin also told her it couldn't assist her with getting her money back. She said this experience was a bad lesson learned.

"As I was going, I'm thinking something doesn't seem right, and I woulda, coulda, shoulda. I should have gone to the police department instead of going to this Bitcoin place," she said.

Cruz said if you do become a victim of a Bitcoin scam, call 911 to report it to police and then you can get some guidance on what steps to take.

The Federal Trade Commission says tech support scammers try to trick people into believing they have a serious problem with their devices and then get victims to pay to fix the fake problem.

Legitimate tech companies won't contact you to tell you there's a problem with your computer, and security pop-up warnings from real companies will never ask you to call a number or click a link, the FTC says.

If you think there's a problem with your computer, the FTC recommends updating your security software and running a scan. If you need help, go to someone you trust. If you've been targeted by a tech support scam, you can report it at

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