NORTHGLENN, Colo. — A single mother is warning people of a scam that swindled her out of $14,000 in savings she counted on to help care for her daughter, who is battling cancer, in case of an emergency.
In early July, Angelica Ortiz received a voicemail asking to immediately contact an investigation officer. Ortiz told police the caller, Christina Edwards, identified herself as an Internal Revenue Service agent and informed her that her identity was compromised. Edwards allegedly told her they found 21 bank accounts in her name linked to money laundering and transferred her to Christian Davis, an alleged special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Davis told her they found a black pickup truck in Texas with cash, drugs and blood inside. He claimed police were on the way to search her home and that her bank accounts would be frozen between 15-20 years unless she bought gift cards so he could create a new social security number for her.
According to the police report, Davis provided Ortiz with various bank account numbers and told her she could recover her money under the new social security number he would give her.
Ortiz says she felt the claims were authentic because the criminals knew her address and cars registered under her name. Panicked, she followed Davis’s order and withdrew $12,500 in cash from her bank and maxed out her credit cards buying gift cards. She says she was told to not hang up the phone or tell anyone what she was doing.
Ortiz provided the caller with all the gift card information. She says she knew something wasn’t right but says the scammer had an answer to every question she had.
“I didn’t know about gift card fraud at all,” Ortiz said.
When Ortiz got home, she began checking the balances on the gift cards and realized all but one was drained.
“Fourteen thousand dollars that I’m never going to see again,” Ortiz said. “They literally left me with nothing, not enough to pay my bills this month, not enough for anything.”
Ortiz is a nurse and has a 3-year-old daughter battling Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, a cancer that affects the skin and blood. She said the scammer took all her money, and now she doesn’t have any savings to help care for her daughter if she gets sick or needs to take time off to care for her.
Ortiz never thought she would fall victim to a scam, but says panic and fear prevented her from listening to her gut instinct.
Each year, hundreds of similar fraudulent cases are reported to the Northglenn Police Department.
Detective Terrie Hoodak works in the financial crimes department, she says these scams are very common and says victims rarely recover their money. Hoodak pointed out several red flags in Ortiz’ case. She said agents will never reveal vital information from an investigation over the phone or ask for money in gift cards.
“The reason that they [scammers] use gift cards is they can easily be transferred from person to person and eventually the funds become untraceable,” Hoodak said.
She advises anyone who gets a similar call from someone asking for money to take down their information and contact their local police department or the direct department they claim to work for. She said people should not use the phone number provided by the caller.
Looking defeated, Ortiz has lost hope in recovering the money she lost, but she hopes by sharing her story she can help save someone else from losing their life savings. Ortiz has launched a GoFundMe, and if you would like to help, click here.
If you would like to report a scam or learn more, click here.