POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Lake Wales man had his entire savings wiped out after falling victim to an elaborate computer scheme.
“Just a few dollars short of $60,000,” the man told 8 on Your Side. Looking back he’s embarrassed.
“How can you be so dumb to fall for something like this?” he said.
He didn’t want his identity known, but wanted his story told.
The 71-year-old man said he responded to a pop-up ad on his computer for a $499 anti-virus software program. A person contacted him from the company –Computer Tech-help.com– claiming the program wasn’t working.
“He said ‘I need to take control of your computer so I can fix what’s wrong,’ So I said, ‘Okay’,” the victim said.
Detectives say it was part of an elaborate scam that Robert Ratkovcic, of Orlando is now charged in. In reality, they tell 8 on Your Side, that he was getting access to the victim’s bank accounts.
Weeks later, the victim was told the software still wasn’t working, so he could have his money back. But, the scammer claimed he accidently refunded him too much money.
“I said well I have no problem sending it back to you it’s not my money,” the victim said. Then came a series of complicated transfers and money orders which were sent to Thailand.
When the victim finally caught on it was too late. “They are after your money every moment of the day online. If you give it to them they are going to take it,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
The victim hopes his story will save at least one person from falling prey to these scammers. “If you don’t know them and you haven’t done any business with them before, don’t send him any money,” he said.
The suspect, Ratkovcic, was arrested in Sausalito, California for running a similar scam that took $116,000. There’s another case in Missouri, and we’re told there are likely more victims right here in Florida.
“These scammers are disgusting in how they take advantage of people, often seniors, stealing tens of thousands of dollars. They appeal to seniors’ honesty, not greed. They trick people into believing that they have been overpaid, then they deceive them into sending them their hard earned savings. I don’t understand how these thieves can live with themselves,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Preventing Financial Scams & Fraud
In this era of Technology, criminals work hard thinking of ways to steal and use your identity fraudulently for their benefit. Help stop them by following these steps when online:
- Avoid purchasing money orders as forms of payment and definitely be cautious if asked to send them overseas such as to Bangkok, Thailand.
- Request a copy of a business’ professional license and firm with whom they are associated. Follow-up with the Better Business Bureau for credibility (www.bbb.org).
- Don’t be ruled by emotions — do your homework and ask for details by mail.
- Be stingy, don’t share.
- Be cautious in giving your personal information to anyone.
- Companies you do business with generally do not call and ask for your personal or direct banking information.
- If contacted, call the business back and use a contact number familiar to you.
- Use strong passwords with capital and lower case letters, symbols and numbers. Use a unique password for each financial institution, and do not use those passwords anywhere else.
- Be careful with emails from unknown sources. Do not let your curiosity make you vulnerable.
- Ignore pop-up advertisements.
- Avoid using or be extra careful when using a public computer or accessing Wi-Fi without a protected Internet connection; your personal information is more vulnerable this way. Conduct business transactions through private connections if possible. Be sure to log out completely every time!
- Only conduct business with reputable businesses. Investigate the company’s history and reviews by checking with the Better Business Bureau before hiring anyone or buying anything.
- If absolutely necessary, only allow reputable businesses known to you to have remote access to your electronic device or personal computer.
- When making online purchases make sure the address bar says “https” and has a locked padlock to protect your personal information.
- If you have detected any criminal or fraudulent activity, notify the company and/or banking institution where it happened. Also, notify the Federal Trade Commission and local law enforcement.
- Request a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
Order online from www.annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports or call 1-877-322-8228.
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