Financial Advice Columnist: How I Was Scammed Out of $50K

'If someone is trying to get you to be compliant, they do it incrementally, in a series of small steps'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2024 6:29 AM CST
Financial Advice Columnist Explains How She Was Scammed Out of $50K
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Dragon Claws)

Charlotte Cowles is the financial advice columnist for the Cut; she used to have a weekly column in the New York Times' business section. She's someone people describe as levelheaded; her best friend and her brother are lawyers. All of this makes it particularly shocking that she was scammed out of $50,000 during an hourslong ordeal last Halloween that she recounts in the Cut. It started with a phone call, identified on caller ID as "Amazon," from someone claiming her Amazon account had been used fraudulently. That person then transferred her to someone supposedly from the FTC, who had all sorts of personal information about Cowles and her family (including her social security number) and who told her she had been targeted in a major cybercrimes case and there were warrants out for her arrest as a result.

He then transferred her to someone supposedly from the CIA, who explained to her why it was so important she tell no one what was going on, and said he could only protect her if she cooperated. After hours on the phone, Cowles ended up going to the bank to withdraw $50,000 because, the supposed CIA agent told her, all of her accounts would soon need to be frozen and her social security number deactivated so that authorities could catch whoever was behind all this. That $50,000 then ended up driving away in an SUV after Cowles dropped it off there because, the "CIA agent" said, it would need to be exchanged for a Treasury check in order to be considered "clean" money. It was shortly after she put the money in the back seat that Cowles realized the truth of what had just happened, and the aftermath was devastating—and confusing. Her full account, found here, is a gripping read. (More Longform stories.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.