LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Ernest Harris III finds small joy in balancing his checkbook online every morning.
It has become a daily routine for the 75-year-old man since he and his wife moved to Las Vegas in 2000. Harris was an Army combat medic in the late 1960s
“Due to my occupation in Vietnam, I was exposed to Agent Orange,” Harris told Nexstar’s KLAS Wednesday morning, detailing the tactical herbicide proven to cause certain cancers and illnesses, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
He said the exposure left him battling a plethora of medical problems. He has difficulty walking, breathing, and sleeping.
Now, in between dry coughs and gasps for air, he’s fighting a new battle: getting his money back.
Harris explained how, one February morning, his computer locked him out and displayed a message stating that it would shut down for up to 48 hours. Unlike other pop-ups, he said he could not click out of it or even turn the computer off.
“All of a sudden, this Apple security thing pops up on my screen,” Harris said, describing another displayed message with a supposed phone number for Apple security services.
When he called this number, Harris said multiple representatives already knew his name and situation. Harris was connected to another representative, who claimed to be from the security department at his bank and that hackers were trying to access his account.
Harris said he never provided personal information over the phone. But, when he was told that hackers were opening accounts on child pornography sites in his name, he listened to their request to withdraw all of the money in his savings before the hackers did.
He said he went to two different banks to withdraw $33,800, which he deposited into two different Bitcoin machines as directed. The representative told him not to alert anyone else of this transaction in case the hackers were monitoring his accounts, he said.
That was the last time Harris saw this money.
“(The representative told me) the next day a courier would deliver my account with the balance in it,” Harris said before rolling his eyes and calling himself a “knucklehead.”
When he tried filing police and FBI reports, he was told that “because I’m the one who went (to the bank) and got it, they couldn’t do anything about it.” He did complete a Federal Trade Commission report, though the report states “the FTC cannot resolve individual complaints, but we can provide information about next steps to take.”
Harris now fears that he and his wife will lose the house they recently refinanced to do improvements, along with other possessions they make monthly payments on.
U.S. VETS – Las Vegas recently helped another veteran find housing after his caretaker scammed money from him. At the time, Team Lead Trista Dowd told KLAS that more veterans are turning to their “short-term rental assistance” as scams like these become more successful.
“We have sometimes families with children arrive (to Las Vegas), thinking they’re going to be moving into housing as soon as they get here. Come to find out, you sent someone a couple of thousand dollars and there was never a unit available,” Dowd said on March 3.
The FTC website says hackers use fear tactics like those experienced by Harris to get information over the phone. They’ll commonly ask for payment via a gift card, a transfer app, or cryptocurrency, the website continues, adding that reputable agencies will not ask for any of this over the phone.
“I was fearful, and I did something I would never do,” Harris said. “That’s why I want other people not to get caught in something like that.”
Harris’ family has created this GoFundMe campaign to try to recover what was lost and allow him to continue receiving medical care.