Teacher scammed of thousands of dollars warns others not to fall for this scheme

MINNEAPOLIS — A teacher who was just trying to help was taken advantage of. Now she’s out thousands of dollars and wants to warn others before it happens to them too. 

Brenda Crissinger was at her Morristown home when a phone call grabbed her attention.

“He immediately said he was an analyst with Amazon and my IP had been hacked. That was the first hook,” Crissinger said. 

The caller claimed she could help them catch the hackers who targeted her and talked her into sharing her computer screen and bank account information. From there they sent her all over on a quest to buy gift cards. The first stop was her bank.

“I want you to go to the bank. I’m going to deposit $6,500 in there. You’re going to go to the bank and take that out,” Crissinger said.

She followed the instructions, buying $500 gift cards at Dollar General, at Hy-Vee, Kwik-Trip and other stores.  Using the cash and then her credit card to buy more than $10,000 worth.

“So I bought them, came in the car, scratched them off, read off the numbers and then we went to another,” Crissinger said.

She says some stores questioned the amount. She lied, giving the reason the caller had concocted. 

“He did say, we just caught X number of hackers. He kept me motivated,” Crissinger said.

Police tell us this is a version of similar scams where they say you’ll be deported, owe taxes, missed jury duty or someone needs bail money. The goal is the same: to have you buy gift cards and take your money.

“It’s crazy, but I thought I was helping,” Crissinger said.

Now she wants to help others avoid falling into the same trap. It’s part of her healing. 

“My vulnerability was really hurt because I thought I knew better than this,” Crissinger said.

Police say to be suspicious of anyone asking for access to bank information, and if anyone tells you to buy gift cards. Odds are Crissinger won’t get much of her money back because schemes involving gift cards are nearly impossible to track.

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