Financial advice columnist shares warning about phone scams after being swindled out of $50K

Charlotte Cowles says she was convinced to hand over the large sum of money to scammers

ByLindsay Tuchman KTRK logo
Tuesday, February 20, 2024
Woman hands over shoebox with $50K in cash in elaborate phone scam
Lindsay Tuchman has the story.

NEW YORK -- A financial advice columnist is sharing her terrifying experience of falling victim to an elaborate phone hustle, which ultimately led her to putting $50,000 in a shoebox and handing it over to the scammers.

Charlotte Cowles, of Brooklyn, New York, is sharing a warning after phone scam artists convinced her to give them tens of thousands of dollars.

"I thought that I would never fall for something like this," she said.

Cowles, a columnist for New York Magazine's 'The Cut,' wrote a now-viral article, "The Day I Put $50,000 in a Shoe Box and Handed it to a Stranger."

"It unfolded very gradually, incrementally over five hours on the phone," she said.

Back in October, scammers called her, first pretending to be with Amazon saying her account was compromised. She then got transferred to someone claiming to be with the Federal Trade Commission telling her she was the victim of identity fraud.

That led to a fake CIA agent saying a warrant was out for her arrest and she had to withdraw $50,000 from her bank to protect her assets.

"Don't tell anyone... everyone is a suspect," the phony agent said to Cowles.

"I think that what these people do is they're very good at targeting people figuring out their one specific vulnerability," Cowles said. "They had very intimate details about me, about my family members. They knew where I lived, they knew the last four digits of my social security number, they knew about my son. And it was terrifying."

According to the FTC however, scammers posing as government agents is common, and Americans lost a total of $2.7 billion just last year to these kinds of hustles.

The New York City Police Department is even sharing videos telling New Yorkers that officials will not call to request money. They are urging them to just hang up.

Cowles says she did file a police report. The scam is still under investigation.

While she can't get the money back, she hopes to prevent others from being swindled like her.