‘They really got me’: Golden man explains how phishing scam starting on YouTube page cost him $7,200

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Don O’Brien, Quincy Regional Director for the Better Business Bureau, said if you think you are being scammed or targeted in a scam, talk to someone. | Photo courtesy of Better Business Bureau

GOLDEN, Ill. — One of the customer service employees at GameStop in Quincy finally helped convince Jason Blentlinger he might be the victim of a scam.

Blentlinger, who lives in Golden, recently visited GameStop four times in four days to buy various gift cards. He was sending them to someone imitating a person connected with a popular YouTube channel to receive what he believed would be a gift. Blentlinger said he had spent $7,200 on the gift cards.

“(The GameStop employee) said, ‘Man, it sounds like it could be a scam, as much as you’re using these gift cards,’” Blentlinger recalled.

The employee was right. Blentlinger eventually went to the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, only to learn he had been scammed. He also recently talked with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and now Blentlinger wants to tell his story to prevent others from getting caught in an online web of deceit.

“What happened here is a great reminder that scammers are very sophisticated and know how to lay traps,” said Don O’Brien, Quincy Regional Director for the Better Business Bureau. “In this instance, the scammers acted as if they were someone else to gain trust. They played the role and lured in Mr. Blentlinger.”

Blentlinger said he was watching videos from the Grimm Life Collective, which claims on its YouTube page that it seeks adventure in searching out “real-life horror locations, filming locations, famous graves and true crime locations.”

Blentlinger had made a post on the page, and someone acting as if they were the person running the page responded with a remark and asked him to download Telegraph, a messaging app that is a popular choice for privacy-conscious people. 

After connecting with the scammer on Telegram, Blentlinger was told he was going to be given a MacBook Pro for being a long-time subscriber and fan of the page. The catch? He had to pay $131 to ship the laptop from the United Kingdom. He was told to go to a nearby store to buy an Apple gift card for the payment. 

He did that, but then he was told by the scammer that something went wrong in transit and he needed to pay more money for shipping. At that time, the scammer told him he included a $5,000 cash prize with the laptop. After getting Blentlinger’s second payment, the scammer said the package was stopped again by customs because it contained cash. Blentlinger sent more money.

“If you win something, you shouldn’t have to pay anything for it,” O’Brien said. “That always will be a red flag. If you are ever asked to pay for something with gift cards, that also is a red flag. Thankfully, Mr. Blentlinger figured out their ruse and went to law enforcement. Unfortunately, he will not get this money back.”

Blentlinger said he started to receive online threats.

“They said if I didn’t send a certain amount of money, they would report me to Interpol (an intergovernmental body with 196 member countries that enables police cooperation and information sharing on crimes and criminals),” he said. “Then he said I needed to send a certain amount of money to get the FBI off our backs. He said the FBI and Interpol confiscated the package from being sent from England because he put $5,000 in it.

“It went on, and then it went on from there. Then that’s when I really started thinking, ‘What’s going on?’”

“If you think you are being scammed or targeted in a scam, talk to someone,” O’Brien said. “If the person you are dealing with asks you to keep things secret, that too is a red flag. You should cut off communication.”

Blentlinger said he doesn’t blame those involved with the Grimm Life Collective page.

“They seem like very nice people in general,” he said.

As for the scammers, Blentlinger said he eventually learned the fake website was based in India.

“They did a hell of a good job. They really got me because I’m always careful. This is the first time I got nailed.”

Blentlinger said to be cautious when making online comments.

“When you send a comment to somebody, and then that channel says that they like it and they say they want to send you something over to you, just let it go with that,” he said. “If they want to offer to give you something, don’t do it. Just think of it as it’s going to be a scam coming.”

BBB released a study earlier this month about phishing scams

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