A 22-year-old man named Zhi Gao from San Gabriel was arrested last Thursday. He is accused of being part of a scam that traped a 65-year-old woman in San Diego into giving away more than $200,000 from her life savings. The announcement of his arrest and charges came on Tuesday.
The woman was reportedly deceived by the scammers into withdrawing large amounts of cash from her bank over several weeks. She then handed over the money to Gao and his accomplices. Gao was arrested when he reached the woman’s house to collect another cash delivery.
Introduction: A Plan to Trap the Woman
As per the statement of San Diego County District Attorney’s police officer Stephan, the 65-year-old woman was using her computer when her computer suddenly froze and showed a pop-up message to have appeared from Microsoft telling her to fix her computer problem by making a phone call.
Later on, she paid $120 as the “tech support” charges, to the fraudsters.
After Stephan said, the scammer already knew that the victim was the account holder of Chase Bank. Therefore; the next time, the fraudsters pretended to be a representative from Chase Bank and informed her there was fraud in her bank account.
The woman was told that to keep her money safe, she needed to take it out of her bank account and give it to the fraudsters. They convinced her that this would allow her money to be kept in a secure account while the fraud division looked into her case, according to Stephan.
The District Attorney’s Office reported that she made many withdrawals, each time taking out between $20,000 and $30,000. She then handed over the cash to couriers who came to her house.
Game Over: The man Gao falls into a trap
Next, the family of the woman was suspected and alerted police about the case.
Gao was caught during an operation when he went to collect an amount of $30,000 from the victim who was scammed, as stated by the prosecutors.
If found guilty of charges such as attempted large-scale theft, attempted receipt of stolen goods, and resisting arrest, he could face a maximum of two and a half years in state prison.
People like Gao, acting as couriers, collect the money from the victims. They then either hand it over to another person involved in the scam or convert the cash into cryptocurrency and send it abroad, as explained by Stephan.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has found that “tech support” scams are responsible for the highest number of victims across the country, with California having the most cases.
Stephan described this situation as a severe instance of financial abuse against the elderly and a strong reminder for older adults and their families to recognize the red flags of a scam and seek assistance.