HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Holly Springs woman says she is embarrassed after losing $16,000 to a scammer, but is sharing her story to try and help others from falling for the same scheme.
"They made me scared," said the woman, who asked that her identity not be revealed.
It started when she got an email, which appeared to be from Amazon that claimed she bought a $1,800 laptop and a $3,500 camera.
The email said that if she didn't order that, she should call immediately.
When she called the number provided in the email, a man claiming to be with the Amazon fraud department told her if she didn't do as he asked, the fraudulent activity would continue.
"These scammers are going to come and ruin you, get into your pension and they're going to get into your savings," she recalled the man telling her.
She panicked and did as instructed and drove to Target and bought gift cards loaded with $500 on each. She then scratched the metallic strip off the back of the cards and read the gift card numbers to him, emptying the value on the gift cards.
From there she was instructed to keep driving to other stores and buy more gift cards.
"Get another $500, another $500," she said he told her. When she said she didn't have $500, "He said, 'Yes you do.'"
"He said, 'We will reimburse you, I promise you can trust us,' she said. "I said, 'How do I know you're not scammers?' And he said, 'You called us, scammers call you.'"
During the whole ordeal, she said the man stayed on the phone with her, even giving her directions to each store to go buy gift cards.
She said he insisted they not hang up and even kept her on the phone when she went into each store.
"He kept me on the line the whole time telling me don't hang up and don't tell anybody about this, because who knows in your family or your friends they might go in and do something. They made me scared," she said.
In all, she ended up buying more than 30 gift cards totaling $16,000.
Despite having all that money, he still wanted more.
"I just said I'm going home and I'm not doing this anymore," she said.
The woman then called her son, Bobby who lives nearby.
"My mom was paralyzed by fear," he said. "She was afraid to call me. She was afraid to reach out to any loved ones or family members that she has by her side. And she was convinced to do some things that, you know, I would never in a million years guess my mother to do."
The email that started all of this appeared to be from Amazon, but it wasn't.
Instead, scammers just copied the Amazon logo and included a fake order to get the woman's attention about suspected fraud. The scammers want the person who receives the email to click on links, or call, and that's when they'll spring the scam on you.
One way to tell that the email is fake is by looking at the sender's email address. While it appears to be from Amazon support, you can actually see it's associated with a Gmail account.
Amazon does have a warning on their website about the scam, but that's not stopping people like Bobby's mom from losing thousands of dollars to it.
"They convinced her to do things that are unthinkable for my mother. And it's scary. It's sad, but it happens," he said.
The key is to remember that scammers just aren't impersonating Amazon, they do this with any legitimate business like Apple, UPS, really any company that will get your attention.
While it's tempting, don't click on any links or call the numbers listed, instead log into your account and contact the company directly. Also, the minute you're asked to buy gift cards and then read the numbers off the back, that is also a sure sign it's a scam.
Since this story aired, some people have offered to help. The family's GoFundMe can be found here.