Arizona woman warns others after being scammed out of over $50K

Dec 14, 2023, 4:05 AM

Side by side of Chinese man who scammed elderly...

Wenbin Li (left) was arrested Nov. 20, 2023, after scamming a woman, only identified as Shirley (middle), out of over $50,000. Deputy Chris Bowles (right) helped in arresting Li. (Pinal County Sheriff's Office screenshot photos)

(Pinal County Sheriff's Office screenshot photos)

PHOENIX — An Arizona woman is warning others about fraudsters who prey on elderly victims after being scammed out of over $50,000.

Deputies received a call from an 80-year-old woman on Nov. 20 who believed she was being scammed for thousands of dollars, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said in an email.

The woman, only identified as Shirley, told deputies that the week prior she received an email of a receipt for antivirus software. She called the number attached to inquire because she didn’t make a purchase of that amount.

The person on the other end convinced Shirley there was an issue with her bank account, and she was advised to pay them to fix the issue, the sheriff’s office said.

Over the next week, a “runner” met her twice to collect cash, totaling over $50,000. She said she bought into the nonsense.

How did Pinal County authorities nab the suspect?

“By the third time, I said, ‘This is insane. This is.. we’re not doing this one,'” Shirley said in a video posted to social media on Wednesday.

That’s when Shirley contacted authorities to let them know the man was on his way.

The sheriff’s office was able to get units together on Nov. 20 in a neighborhood to stake him out. When the runner saw the deputies, he initially tried to flee but ended up stopping, Deputy Chris Bowles said in the video.

Deputies arrested Wenbin Li, 21, a Chinese national in the county on an asylum claim, PCSO said.

“It’s really rare that we’re able to do anything with these types of calls because normally they’re done – there’s call centers overseas – and there’s not much that we can really do,” Bowles said.

Authorities are still searching for the man who Shirley was talking to over the phone.

“Anybody that is on their computer that is being suckered into something that doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right,” Shirley said.

An investigation into the phishing scam is ongoing.

Why are elderly people often the target in scams?

According to the FBI, seniors are often targets of scams because they usually have financial savings, good credit and own a home.

Members of the age group are also less inclined to report fraud because they may be too ashamed or don’t know how.

Seniors could also be concerned that their family members would lose confidence in their abilities to take care of their finances.

How do I protect myself from becoming a scammer’s next target?

The FBI listed different types of scams, explanatory videos and what to do to protect yourself on its website.

People are encouraged to do their research on proposed online offers, be cautious of unsolicited calls, not share personal information, be careful of what’s being downloaded and take proper precautions to protect their identity.

Anyone who believes they’ve been a victim of elder fraud can contact the FBI Phoenix field office at 623-466-1999 or submit a tip online.

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Arizona woman warns others after being scammed out of over $50K