SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Point Loma grandmother is sharing her story after she was scammed out of her life savings during a two-day nightmare.
Barbara Read, 71, got the call last Wednesday morning. The cellphone caller ID read "Federal Reserve." A man identifying himself as a federal reserve officer told the disabled retiree her identity had been stolen and used in a crime spree.
“They knew quite a bit about me,” said Read. ”Someone had been laundering money and counterfeiting money to Colombia, and drug trafficking.”
Read was transferred to a supposed sheriff's deputy, who confirmed she was facing charges, under surveillance, and should stay on the phone with them.
“They just scared me so much with … people were watching me. My phone was tapped. They were going to arrest me and throw me in jail,” said Read.
But the man claiming to be with the Federal Reserve said he wanted to help her, and wanted to protect her assets from the identity thief until the investigation wrapped up.
"Scared me so much that I thought, ‘Gosh, I guess they're really trying to protect me,’” said Read.
In the next two days, the retired nurse and widow went back and forth six times between her banks and Bitcoin ATMs, withdrawing $38,300 — every penny of life savings — and depositing it into a Bitcoin account she believed was a Federal Reserve holding account.
She also charged $2,000 in gift cards, reading the codes to the men on the phone. When they abruptly hung up, she knew she'd been scammed.
“I just feel like I'm at rock bottom,” said a tearful Read.
Read, who lives on a fixed income, is now facing an uncertain future.
“I just felt terrible. So defeated. I have no savings. Nothing … I like helping people, like my granddaughter and my church. That’s what hurts the most: not being to help others out,” said Read.
Read is sharing her story to help others avoid the pain she's feeling.
“I just don’t feel like I would get caught in something like that, and I definitely did,” said Read.
Read did file a police report, but her family told ABC 10News the Bitcoin deposits, which used something called blockchain technology, are untraceable.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help read with expenses.