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Breaking the news to her husband, Machel Andersen wept. “I've done the worst thing in the world — I've ruined us,” she blurted out.
"You had an affair?” he asked.
Andersen, a 56-year-old Utah woman, had kept her vows, but she was lied to and betrayed by two ruthless crooks. In transactions over eight days before last Christmas, she gave away $154,646, the couple's life savings.
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The scam to which she fell victim came to a halt after the criminals increased their demands, telling her to mortgage the couple's home in North Ogden, Utah. She told them the residence was paid for and she couldn't take out a loan against it without involving her husband, whom the scammers had told her not to involve. Next they said to come up with $200,000 or she'd lose the residence.
Are you being defrauded?
Andersen called a friend, who asked her if she was being defrauded. She said no, but began searching online and the truth emerged: She'd been told a series of lies to paper over grand larceny.
The lost money — sent in wire transfers to the Bank of China in Hong Kong — was everything she and her husband had in their checking account, savings account and certificates of deposit, plus funds from an investment account.
Asked if there was any chance of recovering their losses, her husband, Utah State Rep. Kyle Andersen, said: “Absolutely zero."
Last Dec. 6, when the two impostors wrapped their tentacles around Machel Andersen, she was busy and distracted. The couple's daughter had had surgery so she stepped in to care for three grandchildren, the youngest a 7-month-old boy.
Then, on her cellphone, Andersen heard three automated messages saying her Social Security number had been “compromised."
When she returned the calls, a man identified himself as an official at the Social Security Administration's watchdog agency, its Office of Inspector General. He used the name of an actual official, and gave what he purported was his badge number.