I was the victim of a scam over three years ago. After all of this time I still feel the embarrassment and the pit in my stomach from that disturbing day.

It started with a call to my cell phone when I was helping some nurses with education on a new process.

I normally don’t answer a number I don’t recognize, but the same number rang again, so I said “Hello.” A very friendly man asked me if I had bought something from somewhere in Arkansas that morning. Of course I had not purchased anything anywhere. “Well, he said, I am calling from your bank, and we will cancel that transaction and get you a new card.”

Over the course of the next 20 minutes or so, I was unknowingly giving him information to get into my account. He kept assuring me that my account was safe and he just needed a certain code one more time that would verify and clear up everything.

As soon as I hung up from him, I had this terrible feeling of remorse. I opened up my checking account from the app on my phone and was horrified to see that $1,500 had been withdrawn. Panic set in, and I quickly called the number on my debit card. I was mortified that I had just compromised my own account.

The man that I talked to was very kind and supportive. He said these people are professionals and are very good at what they do. They know exactly what to say to make you believe they are legitimate. My account was canceled right away and I was able to have my money returned to me. I spent a few weeks without a working bank account, but it was worth it to know my account was intact.

Recently, my husband fell into a similar scenario, except it arrived by text from a fake USPS site. The message stated that a package was attempted to be delivered, but no one was home. He was asked to pay $3 to have the package delivered, so of course, he entered his credit card information.

I was in the shower at the time, and as he told me the story when I was out of the bathroom, that pit in my stomach returned. As soon as he mentioned he had to pay money for delivery, I had that sinking feeling that he was scammed. We both realized that the USPS site looked legitimate, but was not. Luckily, he was able to cancel his credit card before the transaction was attempted, but again, it was another disturbing situation.

I consider myself and my husband to be reasonably intelligent and logical people. I never thought I would be gullible enough to fall into a trap like that, but I did. And I am sure that these people are difficult to prosecute with the tricks and hacks that are available online.

My advice to those who read this, don’t answer the phone to a number you do not know. If someone needs to reach you, they will leave a message.

Most banks and credit card companies will not call you. Some will text, some will send an email. Even then, check the address of the email. I have clicked on some so-called safe addresses and a foreign address has appeared or a series of letters and numbers.

And most of all, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Please be careful out there and hopefully learn from our experiences.

Cathy Heintz is a 27-year resident of Savage. She is a retired nurse, mother of three and grandmother of five. She loves most sports and enjoys the outdoors.

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