CHICAGO (CBS) — Scammers are targeting Zoom bond hearings – leaving families out of hundreds of dollars while leaving their loved ones locked up.
CBS 2’s Jermont Terry caught up with one of the accused scammers personally on Tuesday.
If you call the suspected scammer, as of Tuesday night he was still picking up the phone and telling folks they can get their family member out of jail using Cash App or Zelle.
But the woman you’ll meet in this story sat outside the Cook County Jail for more than 12 hours – only to find out she had been scammed. She questions why more is not being done to stop such acts.
“It’s hard,” said Laura Valadez of Berwyn. “It’s really, really hard.”
Now it’s even harder for her. Last week, when her husband, Toby Valadez, was arrested for driving without a license, she went to Cook County Criminal Curt to post bond.
“Went to bond court area and can’t get in,” Valadez said.
That is because hearings are still happening on Zoom. After getting help from a county sheriff’s deputy, Laura Valadez and her daughter hopped on Zoom late.
Yet soon after logging on, they got a message in the chat room.
“They asked, who were we there for?” Valadez said. “And so my daughter put in my husband’s name.”
Then, the person started informing them how they could bond out her husband. He offered a number to call – and Valadez did.
<strong>Terry:</strong> “You felt comfortable with this individual because he first communicated with you through what was a secure Zoom link with courts?”
A text exchange at 10 a.m. shows the fake court rep told Valadez she could use Zelle. Receipts show Valadez and her daughter sent $498.
Then they headed down to Cook County Jail and waited.
“We’re sitting there from like 11:30 till 3 in the morning,” Valadez said.
Her husband was a no-show. And when 3 a.m. rolled around, she called back.
“When he answered the phone, it sounded like he in at a party, laughing – and he says, ‘Oh, please hold,'” Valadez said.
So CBS 2’s Terry wanted to find out if the same man would pick up for him. He called, and this is what happened:
<strong>Terry:</strong> “Hi, is this for bond hearing?”
<strong>Man:</strong> “Yes it is.”
<strong>Terry:</strong> “Are you affiliated with the Cook County clerk?”
<strong>Man:</strong> “Yes we is.”
<strong>Terry:</strong> “OK, what’s your name?”
<strong>Terry:</strong> “Everhart, OK – and how do I go about paying if I want to pay?”
<strong>Man:</strong> “You go to 2650 S. California – Cash App or Zelle.”
Terry then told the man on the other end about the Cook County scam alert stating no payments are ever to be made via Cash App or Zelle. This is how he replied:
<strong>Terry:</strong> “Are you a scammer?”
<strong>Man:</strong> “Maybe so.”
<strong>Terry:</strong> “OK, well, why are you scamming people out of $500, and how long have you been doing it?”
<strong>Man:</strong> “It wasn’t $500, it was $400. Have a nice day.”
<strong>Terry:</strong> “I’m calling from Channel 2 News. I want to let you know that we are aware of what you’ve been doing.”
<strong>Man:</strong> “Thank you.”
<strong>Terry:</strong> “Why are you treating people like this, sir?”
<strong>Man:</strong> “Have a nice day.”
<strong>Terry:</strong> “No, how about you answer some questions?”
Valadez filed a police report, but she is demanding the county courts do more.
“They did not say anything about scammers might be getting on there, and I think they should,” she said.
A spokesperson with the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court said they alerted people of Zoom scammers at the start of the pandemic, and there is a warning on the office website.
Yet when one logs in using a phone, that warning is hard to see. And as you can see, the suspected scammer here does not seem too worried about getting caught.