Prisoner extorted workers into sending him payments electronically over Zelle, PayPal, and Venmo.
Most of the time, people think of inmates in the prison system as being removed from society and no longer a threat while they are locked up. Although that’s often the case, it’s not always true, and a recent case involving an inmate in Georgia highlights that fact. With some creativity and the right opportunity, an inmate was able to scam several healthcare workers for more than $15,000 – all while he was incarcerated. He extorted the workers into sending him these payments electronically over Zelle, PayPal, and Venmo as part of a nationwide phone fraud scheme, according to federal prosecutors. It’s hard to believe that such a crime could be committed behind bars, but modern technology makes possible things that couldn’t have been done before.
Alleged to have committed the crimes in this case is an inmate who was serving time at Calhoun State Prison, Robert Nnanwubas. Over the course of his scheme, he is alleged to have secured more than $15,000 from several victims, many of whom were in the healthcare field. It isn’t clear why the perpetrator targeted individuals who were working in healthcare, but it may have something to do with access to information that allowed the calls to be targeted and tailored to each individual, making them more compelling and believable.
Although the scam wasn’t particularly complex or advanced, it was successful in many cases. The caller would use cellphones that were hidden in his cell to call several victims and pretend to be a deputy with the U.S. Marshals. Then, payment would be demanded to avoid arrent for missed court dates. Anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars would be required to be sent only in order to avoid further action. While many who received such calls did not fall for the scam, the several who did would up sending a significant sum of money.
The public in general can avoid falling victim to these types of scams by understanding that the federal government will not, under any circumstances, demand digital payment in order to avoid something like an arrest warrant. That is not how government agencies, and it is safe to simply hang up and ignore their demands. Of course, that advice only works for those who understand this point and have already been warned about the scam. For people who don’t know that this isn’t a legitimate way for the government to operate, they may be tempted to comply out of risk of penalties or punishments.
It’s likely that this case will cause prisons across the country to take a closer look at how they operate and what systems need to be put in place to protect potential victims. Also, education for the general public and for workers in particular sectors can help individuals spot signs of a scam and avoid falling for them in a way that will cause financial harm. The more people who understand how modern scams work and how to avoid them, the harder it will be for criminals to succeed with such endeavors.