My friend Katya fell victim to a scam that happened last week.
In the photo you can see a very happy girl. Her name is Katya Prokhorova, she is an international student at University of California San Diego. She has been having a great time as a student here in America, but last week she fell victim to one of these scams and that really makes me feel very sad. I hope that spreading this story among all of you will not only help Katya, but also might prevent many other people from being in the same situation.
On the 28th of February 2019 a person claiming to be a Social Security officer reached out to Katya and said that under her Social Security Number there were 25 bank accounts open and that there are illegal money transactions going on. And if Katya wants to prove that she is innocent and if she wants to save her money in her real bank account she has to cooperate with the Officer and "save" her money by transferring it to the governmental electronic wallet.
Then, to make everything look real Katya was also reached out by someone claiming to be a police officer (Katya had the local police station telephone number saved in her phone, so when there was a call, it was displayed as the correct number of the "Police office San Diego." There are, unfortunately, web services that allow scammers to spoof telephone numbers). The “Police Officer” explained that Katya should cooperate, otherwise first of all, she would be accused of being involved in illegal actions and secondly, she may lose all the money from her account since they are going to close all bank accounts under Katya's SSN.
Then Katya frightened to death was ready to do anything to prove that she had nothing to hide and followed all the steps that the Officer told her to do. First, she was asked to withdraw all the money from her debit card and to transfer it to the "Governmental E-wallet" through Bitcoin machine using the bar-code that they provided to her. Then she had to "save" all her money from her credit card by buying Google Play gift cards at CVS, and provide Officer with the numbers at the back of the gift cards. They told her that the next day she would be provided with the new Social Security number and all her money would be given back to her. But now all the money has to be frozen for 24 hours to prove that Katya is not involved in any criminal activities. On top of that Katya should keep everything strictly confidential until the next day when her new SSN will arrive.
Katya did everything as she was told but the same day she decided to call back to the police station again (using the same telephone number) to make sure that she did everything correctly and that nobody will accuse her of illegal activities anymore. But the police office on the other side of the phone told her that nobody contacted her and that Social Security Officers would never contact anyone via phone. And, of course, the next day, no money was returned.
In total, Katya gave them all her money from her debit account, that she was saving for rent for summer months after the graduation, as she would have to find housing off campus while looking for a job after graduation. That amounted to 5000$. On top of it, she gave 2000$ from her credit account and now she owes it back to the bank. Enclosed you will find a check for the transaction she made at CVS buying 4 gift cards 500$ each, as well as the transaction at bitcoin machine where she carried out a transaction for 5000$.
Now she is extremely in need of your support, emotional and financial. She is in the US completely alone, her family is far away and she worked so hard to be here, to be able to study and live here completely by herself. And now her ability to stay and survive in the US is at risk, after so much effort was made.
She reported the case to her bank, to CVS, to Google, to the FBI and to the police office San Diego where she hoped to get help, but the only response was that these fake "Officers" (Adam Tye and Sam Jordan) are probably out of the country and that it is impossible to get money back and to help her.
Scammers pray on hardworking international students that do not have anyone to turn to in case of emergency and international students have difficulties understanding details over the phone due to language barriers and unfamiliarity with legal procedures. They specifically identify international students as the most vulnerable. Please spread this story for other international students not to fall victims to scammers.
Katya is completely alone in this country. She cannot even tell her parents about what had happened to her as they will not be able to help, but the worrying would devastate them. Katya worked very hard all her life to be able to come to the UCSD. With a full academic workload she also works as a TA to be able to support herself. She has been saving the money for rent after she graduates for over a year. The scammers took that 5000$ knowing she did not have a penny left in her account. And the most devastating part of the scam is her owing to the bank 2000$ plus interest now in credit card debt.
If you feel sympathetic to Katya’s story, I am asking you to help her at least cover the credit debt, as debt plus 25% interest is an unimaginable burden to an international student that will completely derail her prospects of being able to continue her study and work in the USA.
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