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Winter Storm Stella Stumble Video by Jose F. Moreno/Gannett

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VINELAND – A 73-year-old Brewster Road woman told police she lost $24,808 in a three-month Internet scam where she thought she was repaying an erroneous refund.

Police are now investigating it as a case of theft by deception.

In January, the woman was having problems with her email and responded to a pop-up advertisement to have her computer fixed, giving the company access to her computer files.

When the reported virus appeared to be fixed, the woman used her debit card to pay $599.99 to pay the company, police said.

On March 8, she got a phone call from “Kevin,” claiming to be from the computer repair company. He told her that her computer virus was back and offered to refund her $599.99. When she was instructed to enter the amount of the refund into a pop-up on her screen, the woman said she mistakenly entered $6,600.

"Kevin" told the woman he would lose his job is she didn’t return the excess refund. He told her to send $2,400 via Money Gram to a Davlat Fahriev in Czech Republic. He then instructed her to go to Walgreens and use Western Union to send another $2,400 to the same person.

A few days later, “Kevin” called the woman to say the money was not picked up and she'd  been issued an additional $4,900 refund. She repeated the process with Money Gram and Western Union but was instructed to send the money to Tofig Karimov, also in the Czech Republic.

Later, “Kevin” told her the money was not coming through and she was receiving additional refunds. The woman said she was instructed to withdraw $9,700 from her bank and deposit it into two Bank of America accounts. The next day, “Kevin” called to say the money did not go through and the woman got suspicious, police said.

Wanting to see her bank account, “Kevin” told her to log on her computer and she viewed what appeared to be her bank statement, showing several credits to her account. She then sent another $4,800 via Western Union and Money Gram to a Varduhi Donkutyan in Albania.

When she later directly logged onto her BB&T online banking, she realized she was scammed out of her money.

Deborah M. Marko; (856) 563-5256; dmarko@gannettnj.com

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