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Grand Traverse County couple nearly scammed out of $17,000

The NYPD has received 30 complaints from people who have lost money to a Chinese-language robocall scam.
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The NYPD has received 30 complaints from people who have lost money to a Chinese-language robocall scam.

A gas station manager in Grand Traverse County recently helped prevent an elderly couple from sending $17,000 to a scam operation.

The Michigan State Police said scams increase during the holiday season and that Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, has become a popular tool for scammers.

The couple was speaking on the phone with the scammer at a Bitcoin ATM when the manager noticed something was off.

The manager contacted police, and when they arrived, the couple said they were being threatened with prosecution and losing their computer data if they didn’t send money immediately.

"We see this time and time again, where people receive some kind of phone call or computer virus or email saying you have to do this. And unfortunately, people continue to fall for this," said Lieutenant Derrick Carroll of the Michigan State Police.

Carroll said scammers are hard to track and often based outside the U.S. The couple had already sent the scammers nearly $3,000 and won’t get it back.

He says Bitcoin has become a popular tool for scammers because it can be turned into cash quickly.

Lieutenant Carroll added that these types of scams happening year round, but increase this time of year.

"Seasonally they tend to increase around the holidays because that's when people are conscious about gifts and they're online more like cyber Monday and everything which is when this timeframe of this occurred," said Lieutenant Carroll

The State Police said if someone on the phone is pressuring you to send money in the form of Bitcoin or gift cards it is likely a scam and you should contact their local police department or State Police.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently launched her holiday consumer protection campaign. Learn more about resources available to Michigan residents here.

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.