Finance Columnist's Story of Getting Scammed Out of $50,000 Goes Viral: 'Someone Waged Psychological Warfare on Me'

The woman, who writes for 'The Cut,' described how she was bamboozled out of tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

Scattered U.S. hundred-dollar bills
Ozan Kose / AFP via Getty Images
Scattered U.S. hundred-dollar bills

Even those who are savvy with money aren’t immune to scams.

On Thursday, The Cut’s financial advice columnist, Charlotte Cowles, wrote a first-person account of getting hoodwinked—to the tune of $50,000 in cash. Her story subsequently went viral when X user @edzitron shared clips of the story.

“This is The Cut's financial advice columnist! They gave someone $50,000 in cash because they got called by ‘Amazon’ about fraud on their account, who then, I kid you not transferred them to the 'FTC'! T FTC does not deal with fraud or have badge numbers,” the X user wrote.

"it's a government number, it cannot be spoofed" is absolutely killing me

— Ed Zitron (@edzitron) February 15, 2024
Twitter: @edzitron

Cowles’ story is on the absurd side. She described it being a very innocuous Tuesday afternoon in October when she got a call from an Amazon customer service agent who said there was fraud on Cowles’ account. Though she didn’t see any sign of fraud from her bank, she was connected to an investigator from the Federal Trade Commission, who had her personal information, including Social Security Number.

He told her that there were warrants out for her arrest in two states due to criminal activity, including money laundering, and that she couldn’t trust anyone—not even her husband or her parents. She was connected to a man who told her that he was a CIA investigator who worked with the FTC, and he echoed the same stories that the FTC investigator did, which persuaded Cowles.

They somehow convinced her that time was running out before her assets were frozen for the length of the investigation, and that she needed to withdraw $50,000 from her bank to give to the CIA investigator’s colleague. The Treasury would, in turn, write her a check for the same amount. Later that same day, she handed the cash, kept neatly in a shoebox, to the so-called colleague.

“If I had to pinpoint a moment that made me think my scammers were legitimate, it was probably when they read me my Social Security number,” she wrote. “Now I know that all kinds of personal information—your email address, your kids’ names and birthdays, even your pets’ names—are commonly sold on the dark web.”

She also pointed out the one main reason she gave in to the scam.

“Several friends felt strongly that if the scammers hadn’t mentioned my son, I would never have fallen for this. They’re right that I’d be willing to do—or pay—anything to protect him. Either way, I have to accept that someone waged psychological warfare on me, and I lost. For now, I just don’t answer my phone.”

Latest in Life