Christy Browne was in a panic. The man on the phone said he was from the FBI. He warned her that drug traffickers had obtained her Social Security number and were using it to launder money. He said the FBI needed money to catch them.

“They told me not to go to local law enforcement,” Browne testified in court recently about the February 2020 call. The police were watching her and considered her a suspect, the man said.

At his direction, Browne, a retired elementary school teacher who lives in upstate New York, bought four $500 Walmart gift cards at her local Walmart. It was 3:15 pm. She took photos of the serial numbers and PINs on the back and texted them to the man on the phone. With that information, the fraudster had access to $2,000.