Elderly Chicago-area woman loses $230K after phone scammer accuses her of crimes: report

Henriette Schmuhl says she converted life savings to Bitcoin to clear her name

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A 74-year-old Chicago area woman was scammed out of $230,000 this year after a mysterious caller accused her of criminal activity, according to a local report.

Henriette Schmuhl said she was "so afraid" when she received the phone call in May from a man claiming to be from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, she told WBBM-TV.

Schmuhl said the man, who identified himself as "Andrew Hall" and even gave her a badge and warrant case number, told her that she was accused of drug trafficking and money laundering – crimes she never committed.

He told her that if she went to the police she’d be arrested, the report said. 

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A man claiming to be with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called Schmuhl and accused her of crimes she didn't commit, the 74-year-old said.

A man claiming to be with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called Schmuhl and accused her of crimes she didn't commit, the 74-year-old said. (iStock)

The fake federal official said Schmuhl was also a victim of identity theft and needed a new social security number. But before changing her number, he demanded Schmuhl make large withdrawals of cash from her savings account to "protect" herself, the 74-year-old said.

Schmuhl said she kept the phone call a secret from her family and used different Bitcoin machines to convert her life savings into digital currency to try to clear her name.

"Andrew Hall" then persuaded Schmuhl to max out her credit cards, buying gift cards worth $17,000, when she ran out of cash to convert to Bitcoin, she told the station.

Schmuhl said she believed the man was her friend and trying to help her – until one day he stopped answering her calls.

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Investigators with the FBI were called onto the case and traced the phone call to Malta, the report said.

Schmuhl said that she hopes her story will serve as a warning to others who are threatened over the phone with being arrested or losing their Social Security number.