Woman Nearly Falls Victim to Online Schemers

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HARLINGEN – A local woman said recently she was the target of telephone crooks.

She said she believes the schemers knew what she was searching for online and tried using that information to scheme her out of money.

A cyber expert says once bad guys find out what you are interested in, they can tailor their scheme uniquely to your desires.

Susanna Groves moved into her Harlingen house several months ago. She's worked to make her house a home by placing family photos and heirlooms along the walls.

Her next step is to receive a grant to build a garden and fence.

Groves did some web surfing and found a website in which she could apply for grants. She applied for several. Then several days later the phone rang.

"The woman on the other end of the line said I'm calling from the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington, D.C. and we'd like to offer you a $9,000 grant. And I thought great," Groves said.

Groves explained the caller informed her that she would need to call her supervisor to receive her funds.

When Grove called the supervisor, she received a bizarre request.

"In order for you to actually receive your funds, we need you to wire $200 as a registration fee," Groves told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

She said at that moment she knew she was the target of a scheme. She laughed and the schemer hung up the phone.

Groves told CHANNEL NEWS then she started wondering. How did the schemers know she was looking for a grant?

"The timing is too good to be true, I mean you know I'm looking for grants and then I get a phone call on my cell number,” Groves explained.

We spoke to KRGV chief engineer and cyber expert Michael Leal for an answer.

He explained many online websites are beginning to sell their users' information to third parties. He said it's not uncommon that that information falls into the wrong hands.

"Usually it won't have anything specific attached to it, so it is demographic information. That sort of stuff is perfectly legal to share," Leal told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

Leal said once schemers have that information they can play on your needs.

"So they know you're eager for money, you need it for a thing," Leal explained.

He said these days you always have to be on the lookout for red flags.

"A red flag is asking for money. If they are fishing for any information beyond what you have already submitted that is also a red flag," Leal said.

Groves said from here on out she plans to be more careful. Moving forward she'll look for grants the old fashion way.


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